PRESS PASS Q
JULY 2010 [Vol. 12, No. 4)
Celebrating 11 years of serving our community of journalists
TABLE OF CONTENTS
FEATURE: Reports of print media’s death greatly exaggerated: LGBT print media obituary in Village Voice rankles editors and publishers
by Chuck Colbert
“Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” Mark Twain once said upon learning that the New York Journal had published his obituary. A June 22 piece in the Village Voice that sounded an alarming LGBT-print media death knell seems to have caused the same reaction.
The article was entitled “Gay Print Media on the Wane: The Internet spells doom for many long-established periodicals” [and it was written by Press Pass Q contributor Michael K. Lavers).
According to the piece, November 16, 2009, marked a key date, “the day the death rattle began.” That’s the date that Window Media’s empire collapsed, shuttering the venerable Washington Blade and Atlanta-based Southern Voice, among other gay newspapers and magazines. Additionally, The Advocate’s print version, no longer a stand-alone publication and unavailable on newsstands, is but a shell of its former self, Lavers suggested.
Clear enough for him, the handwriting is on the wall. LGBT print media is dying, if not already dead, and long live digital gay media. “With print publications falling like so many dead trees,” Lavers wrote, “bloggers and new, online-only news networks like Edge Media Networks and Britain’s Pink News are fast becoming the new gay press establishment.”
Editors and publishers of gay media fired back in print and online, their reactions taking Lavers and the Voice to task for what they saw as sloppy journalism.
“The article shows a lack of knowledge of gay media outside New York or D.C.,” wrote Philadelphia Gay News publisher Mark Segal, pointing to Dallas, Philadelphia and Denver as “good examples of local LGBT media that are thriving in a down economy.” In fact, “gay print media is growing,” according to Segal, “just step off of Manhattan and you will see it.”
Another vocal critic, native New Yorker Peter Rosenstein, said of Lavers' piece, “This article is clearly not up to the old standards” of the publication. “If this is a sample of his writing or the writing in the current [Village Voice], I think you have a problem,” added Rosenstein, who writes a bi-weekly column for the Blade and serves on the board of directors for the D.C. chapter of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association.
Undoubtedly, the rise of digital media and current economic conditions have given LGBT print media – in fact, all traditional media – a run for their money. But what rankles gay editors and publishers perhaps most is Lavers’ broad brushstrokes in so hastily burying gay print media. Equally irritating, they say, are factual errors, unsubstantiated claims and gross generalizations.
For example, the Voice piece places the Blade’s untimely closing on the Monday after its 40th anniversary celebration, which took place in a hotel ballroom. Employees also found themselves “locked out,” that same Monday, according to Lavers.
“None of that is true,” Blade editor Kevin Naff wrote in an editorial. “Our anniversary party wasn’t held in a hotel ballroom; the closure happened a full month after that party and staffers were not locked out.”
Even more disturbing for Naff is editorial oversight at the Voice for not disclosing Lavers’ work for Edge Media Network as its national news editor.
Steve Weinstein, who edited Lavers’ piece for the Voice, said he regrets that the disclaimer got cut. “That’s partly my fault,” he said.
Additionally, for Lavers to make the “grandiose claim” of Edge Network’s ascendancy to “new gay press establishment” status, with “no evidence” smacks of a “self-serving story,” according to Naff.
“I’ll take a mea culpa on that,” said Weinstein. “I probably should have softened that down,” he added, referring to the establishment claim.
Another editor taking strong exception to the piece is Laura Douglas-Brown of Atlanta-based Georgia Voice. While thanking the Village Voice for coverage of LGBT issues and acknowledging Lavers for raising “some interesting points,” Douglas-Brown took issue with his failure to note gay print media success stories in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. Publishers and editors there, Lavers wrote, “are attempting to resurrect their respective papers, but starting a ‘hard copy’ niche weekly in the hard times will prove daunting – to say the least.”
Use of the word “attempting” drew an emphatic rebuke from Douglas-Brown. “It would seem relevant to report that we are not just attempting to start new LGBT media for our cities: WE HAVE,” she wrote.
Indeed, former Blade staffers, without missing an issue, launched DC Agenda and have recently resumed publishing under the original moniker.
In fact, Atlanta now has two LGBT niche publications, including a new Southern Voice and the new Georgia Voice, which former Southern Voice editor Douglass-Brown and former publisher Christina Cash launched in March. “Both are thriving,” wrote Douglas-Brown. “Thanks for asking, Mr. Lavers.”
Similarly, South Florida now boasts two LGBT niche media outlets – Florida Agenda and South Florida Gay News, with both based in Wilton Manors in Broward County. And San Diego, already home to Gay & Lesbian Times and the on-line only Gay & Lesbian News, saw the recent launch of Gay San Diego, its premier issue debuting on June 18.
Altogether, the most recent Gay Press Report – oddly enough released on the same day that the Voice published its gay-print-media obituary – points to a robust LGBT media landscape, providing empirical evidence to support editors’ and publishers' overall upbeat assessment of LGBT print outlets, notwithstanding the challenge of declining circulation numbers.
Spending in gay publications, the study shows, rose 13.6 percent during 2009 – reaching a record high of $349.6 million in advertising revenues. The same year, the LGBT press included 136 individual titles, an increase of six from the previous year.
Still, the combined circulation of all LGBT publications is now 2,387,750 – down 27.6 percent, a significant drop since 2008, according to the Gay Press Report, a jointly sponsored annual study of Prime Access, Inc., a multi-cultural ad agency, and Rivendell Media, the nation's leading gay media representative firm [which also publishes Press Pass Q). The full Gay Press Report is available at http://rivendellmedia.com/documents/gaypressreport2009.pdf.
True enough, no one disputes that the web’s immediacy has eclipsed the print media – mainstream, alternative and LGBT outlets included. So why continue to publish in print? “The dirty secret in publishing is that no newspaper is making more than 10-15 percent of its revenue from Web ads,” Naff wrote. At the same time, publishers continue searching for a business model that can more lucratively monetize Internet ad revenues.
Still, for his part, Lavers stands by his reporting. “It’s a valid question: What’s the future of gay print? It’s not the first time anyone has written about [the topic] and the struggle gay media is having,” said Lavers.
Both Weinstein and Lavers heaped praise and voiced respect for Naff, the Blade and all LGBT print outlets that continue to provide relevant and timely content to their readers.
Meanwhile, Matt Comer, editor of Charlotte, N.C.-based Q Notes, offered his suggestion of a two-product business model that has enabled his publication to adapt, at least temporarily, to the digital challenge.
“Right now,” he wrote in response to Lavers’ piece, “’we focus on two products: one print, one online,” adding, “They share the same content and name, but are treated differently as they have different needs, audiences and advertising structure.”
IN THE NEWS: Freelancers claim Advocate and Out not paying
For months now, the claims have buzzed through the blogosphere that the Advocate and Out magazine have not been paying freelancers in a timely manner.
Gawker.com, for example, put it this way: “Screwing freelancers is just wrong,” singling out Advocate and Out parent company Regent/Here Media for “ripping their freelancers off.”
How many writers are still owed money? Hard numbers are difficult to ascertain because more than a few freelancers are reluctant to go public with their stories. But Queerty.com reportedly reached out to a dozen contributors, with only two saying that they received payment, albeit only partial amounts of what they are still owed, compensation for content completed months ago.
While readily acknowledging a small group sample, Queerty nonetheless reported a total of $22,589.33 overdue to its sample.
One freelancer willing to speak on the record voiced both frustration and disappointment with his unpaid invoice of $1,200 for his piece “Rethinking AIDS Meds,” posted Dec. 2, 2009, on Advocate.com.
“I feel a personal sense of betrayal because I’ve been writing for one or another of those publications [the Advocate and Out] for 18 years,” said New York City-based Steve Weinstein, editor in chief of Edgepublications.com.
“I always had cordial relationships with everyone and enjoyed writing for them,” he added. “So I feel like it’s a member of my family betraying me, not only because I’ve been writing for them for so long, but also because I’ve also considered gay media to be a large family. We may compete for some of the same advertising dollars, but we are all in the same boat. It makes me very sad.”
Gawker.com posted several similar examples:
The news out of Regent/Here Media, however, is not all bad. One freelancer, who asked not to be identified, says he “did receive back pay [of $100] in late February – more than five months after my story ran.”
Does Regent/Here Media have any response? “The company has no comment on the story,” wrote Mark Umbach, senior manager for marketing and corporate communications, in e-mail correspondence, responding to requests for comment.
Weinstein remains optimistic. The company has answered his emails, so he's hopeful of being paid – and of being able to re-establish a working relationship with the company.
That said, having no comment does not cut muster for Weinstein. “As long as Regent is an extant company, they have an obligation – both moral and legal – to pay.”
— Chuck Colbert
Investigation finds fuzzy circulation numbers in San Diego
It was anything but a “merry month of May” for San Diego’s longest running LGBT publication. The drama began on May 11, when online rival San Diego Gay & Lesbian News [www.sdgln.com), teaming up with a mainstream outlet, San Diego News Network [www.sdnn.com), ran an investigative story alleging that publisher Michael Portantino of the Gay & Lesbian Times misrepresented circulation numbers, owes back taxes to the IRS, stiffed freelancers and was not paying vendors on time.
Specifically, the Gay & Lesbian Times [www.gaylesbiantimes.com) reportedly owes $124,546.27 to its printer and has an IRS tax lien for $45,592.44. “At this rate, the [Times] runs the risk of becoming the next gay magazine to go under,” the reporting suggested, “as the economics of publishing collapse.”
Not so, says publisher Portantino. “The Gay & Lesbian Times is as strong as ever,” he wrote in a May 12 letter to reassure advertisers, partners and vendors. “We continue to be a staple” in the local community as well as “a valued source of news and information for our loyal readers.” In spite of challenging economic times, Portantino continued, “[the Gay & Lesbian Times] can still report strong readership numbers, a diverse offering of digital and print communications packages and affordable advertising rates that have not increased since 2007.”
By the month’s end yet another shoe dropped. The San Diego Reader reported on May 29 that the San Diego News Network “is out of business.”
Beyond seeming like one LGBT outlet going after a rival publication, what’s going on here? At this point no one is talking – at least on the record. Portantino referred this reporter to his lawyer, who has not returned a phone call. Mum’s the word with San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, although the outlet reported, “a complaint against the Times has been forwarded to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the San Diego County District Attorney’s office,” both of which “requested copies of the source documents provided to” the other two media outlets.
Still, Paul Levikow, a spokesperson for the local district attorney’s office, said “no criminal charges” are pending.
Meanwhile, a few points are worth mentioning. It’s not clear how the other two outlets secured the source documents, which include the Times’ printer invoices, internal communications, business and merchant account bank statements, copies of checks, and state and federal tax records.
The investigative reporting relies on former Times employees, including a former salesperson, freelancer, short-term contract advertiser and a former Times’ editor – all calling into question the motivation behind the story.
Still, it does appear that the Times has not been forthcoming with its circulation numbers. Printer invoices show the Times “cut its circulation to 10,000 copies weekly in September 2009 and to 9,000 copies in February and March of this year,” according to the reports. During that time period, however, the Times claimed a circulation of 15,700 for its weekly print edition.
Todd Evans, president and chief executive officer of Rivendell Media, confirms that the Times last reported 15,700 as its circulation, noting the last audits on file from 2005 to 2008 showed figures consistent with that number. “The circulation is controlled, so that is reflective of the print run,” he explained. “The accepted readership for the Times is 2.2 readers per issue, according to Simmons Market Research bureau, which is a good rule of thumb for local gay media.” [Rivendell, the largest gay and lesbian media advertising placement company, also publishes Press Pass Q.)
Nonetheless, the Times claims a weekly readership of 65,000, along with a 13,000-subscriber weekly e-mail blast, according to the reports.
“Our websites www.gaylesbiantimes.com and www.gltnewsnow.com receive 25,000 to 35,000 hits per week,” the e-mail blast reads, according to the two media outlets. And yet, an attachment claimed a readership of 38,750, according to the investigative reporting.
But how the Times arrived at weekly numbers is unclear. An independent monitoring source showed combined traffic for the Times and its sister website totaled 21,220 visitors and 63,000 views per month, according to the reporting, citing Quantcast, an open audience measurement service, free to both publishers and marketers.
An independent check of Quantcast by Press Pass Q on June 3 found that total traffic for both websites was 19,358 monthly people in the U.S., with 54,950 U.S. page views per month.
Rivendell’s Evans offered his perspective on the circulations numbers. “If true, it's unfortunate that the Times didn't just let their salespeople know. It's almost the standard from 2008 to 2009 of reducing circulation to cut expenses," he said. "The important part is that whatever your circulation is, it matters. This is kind of like the ever-shrinking sizes of products on grocery shelves – the price stays the same but the amount keeps shrinking – and no one questions that because the weight is right there to be seen. Advertisers will still come. The truth is the truth. Why hide from it?”
— Chuck Colbert
The Guide magazine ceases print publication and goes online only
For nearly 30 years, the Guide magazine has been one of the most popular gay travel magazines in North America. When its August 2010 issue hits the streets at the end of July, the Guide will become the latest title to cease print publication in favor of the web.
Calling the switch a “strategic change in direction,” publisher and editor in chief Brandon Matheson said www.Guidemag.com would connect with more readers on an ongoing basis with more frequent updates of content.
“Increasingly, gay men look to the Web as their prime source of travel information,” said Matheson. “We need to ensure that we remain relevant and stay connected to the dedicated readership that the Guide magazine has built over the past 30 years.”
A newly redesigned website was launched at the end of May featuring in-depth travel features on both gay hotspots and more unique destinations, as well as event listings, maps and a directory of gay and gay-friendly businesses. It was designed to be more user-friendly than previous versions.
Moving to an online-only product opens the Guide magazine to a larger, global audience than print. The site currently attracts roughly 60,000 visitors each month from around the world. As of the final issue, the print edition of the Guide circulates about 25,000 copies per month available free at newsstands and gay-friendly businesses in cities across Canada and the U.S. There is also small circulation in cities in Europe and Australia.
A bigger and more global audience potentially means more advertising revenue for the Guide from businesses looking to reach that expanded audience.
“We’ve heard from many advertisers that the Web is where they want to be,” said the Guide’s advertising director Ken Hickling.
Hickling said the magazine has launched an aggressive new campaign to bring more advertisers to the site and list more businesses.
Mark Sullivan will no longer be the Guide’s editor once the last issue is off the press, but he will continue to contribute to the website on a freelance basis.
Matheson noted that there are no plans at this time to cease print publications of any of the other titles published by Pink Triangle Press.
”It is not part of our longer-term strategy for any other publication,” he said, noting the high costs of producing an international magazine and the increasing concentration of travel planning and booking on the web. “With our focus on gay travel, it simply makes more sense for us to be online than in print.”
The nearly 40-year-old non-profit Pink Triangle Press purchased the Guide magazine and Guidemag.com from Boston-based Fidelity Publishing in 2006 when founder and publisher Edward Hougen announced his retirement. Pink Triangle Press also publishes Xtra In Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa, and the glossy Fab magazine. It co-owns Canadian LGBT cable channel OutTV and fully owns the hardcore cable sex channel HardTV.
— Duane Booth
Canada’s chain of LGBT newspapers gets new look
Canada’s Xtra group of newspapers recently launched a major redesign aimed at improving the readers’ experience, establishing a more national brand and linking print content with the web.
“Many readers have grown up with Xtra over the past 26 years and are comfortable with its constant, familiar presence,” said publisher Brandon Matheson. “But in today’s changing media landscape, Xtra needs to change; not only with a fresh new face and design, but also content and packaging to address our readers’ relationships with our print and web publishing activities.”
During a lengthy creative process, Toronto freelance designer Lucinda Wallace created a new look that is easier to read and more visually appealing with more icons and pointers to Web content. Wallace worked full-time for Xtra from 1994 to 2001. Last fall, she was awarded the contract to conduct the redesign.
“Xtra really needed a makeover,” she said, noting that the paper had sported the same look for more than a decade.
A major focus on the design process, Wallace said, was creating a consistent look from the front page to the back. That includes the use of color to provide a visual cue for readers. “The accent colors have been broken up into news and arts and leisure,” she said. “It’s used in subtle ways, because we don’t always have full-color pages.”
She noted also that the new body font, Chronicle Text, was specifically designed for web printing presses and allows for a much cleaner look on the pages. “It is a good font for newsprint because there isn’t as much letting between the lines.”
Editorial director Matt Mills praised Wallace’s designs, saying she “crafted a sophisticated presentation for Xtra's journalistic work that surpasses the contemporary professional standard of many publications in print today."
One of the biggest changes has been a new logo, which serves to unify the brand’s three separate newspapers and the Xtra.ca website into one seamless, national brand. Previously, each newspaper was emblazoned with the traditional stylized X and had its own name and brand – Xtra in Toronto, Xtra West in Vancouver and Capital Xtra in Ottawa. All papers will now bear the Xtra title with a separate tag line identifying the community.
Mills said that the new logo also allows designers to be more creative with photography on the cover without concern for the placement of the logo.
Described as a “content foyer,” the newspapers now also feature a section called Roundup that was previously found on Xtra.ca. The feature gives readers a snapshot of news, analysis and arts coverage that directs readers to content in subsequent pages, but also to the Xtra.ca web site.
“Roundup not only outlines the selection of news, analysis and arts coverage waiting in the pages of your print edition, it also directs you to great video, audio, photographic and additional print features online at Xtra.ca,” said Mills.
The new look was given a test run with the Ottawa edition on March 18, followed by its debut in Toronto and Vancouver on March 25. The newspapers have a combined circulation of 81,000 with an estimated audience of 146,000 readers.
— Duane Booth
4th annual LGBT Community Survey wants answers
Community Marketing Inc., based in San Francisco, wants to know all about you and your spending habits.
The firm’s fourth annual survey includes nearly three-dozen questions that focus on a person’s demographics and spending habits. These include whether your household has bought a laptop computer or other major purchases in the past 12 months – or whether someone in their home plans to purchase big-ticket items over the next year as the economy continues to slowly recover.
Other items seek to gauge the most effective way corporations can outreach to LGBT consumer and how they respond to specific terms used in corporate advertising. The survey also seeks to gather information about media consumption habits and, for the first time, what are the top issues on which LGBT consumers would like their elected officials to act.
“We’re trying to get a sense if more general issues rise to the top or LGBT [issues],” said Community Marketing’s David Paisley. These questions, which Paisley concedes have nothing to do with advertising, could potentially help LGBT media outlets on their coverage of these issues.
“They might give local media some leads on important issues they may not have thought of,” he said.
The survey comes on the heels of the Community Marketing and Pink Banana-sponsored Gay & Lesbian Marketing Conference in New York City. At the confab, Paisley said that the recession impacted LGBT consumers on average less than their mainstream counterparts. “When compared to mainstream figures, it tends to be less extreme,” he said.
Community Marketing has been working to spread the word about the survey in order to get as large a sample as possible. The survey results are expected to be released later this summer, but it can be reached at www.communitymarketinginc.com.
— Michael K. Lavers
PRESSING QUESTIONS: will return next month
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Stonewall was a rebellion, not a riot
Stop referring to the Stonewall Rebellion as the Stonewall "riots"! They weren't! If you were there, you would know that. We were! There was no looting, no knifings, no burnings, no murders and no insurance claims.
We are not interested in who refers to the civil rights event as "riots.” That criminalizes it. They are wrong.
You are in the business of informing. Let's do it.
[What’s your opinion? We’d like to know. Send your letters to editor@PressPassQ.com. Letters should be kept to a maximum of 250 words and may be edited for length and clarity.)
TRANSITIONS AND MILESTONES
[Editor’s note: Are there important changes going on at your publication? E-mail the information to editor@PressPassQ.com.)
ABOUT MAGAZINE, based in Toronto and Buffalo, N.Y., announced that it has ceased publication of its print edition and will focus solely on its online product at ABOUTMAG.COM.
JOSH ATEROVIS, a columnist with Baltimore-based OUTLOUD, has been selected as a finalist in the annual Lambda Literary Awards for his book, “All Lost Things,” in the gay mystery category.
CHICAGOPRIDE.COM celebrated its 8th anniversary on June 24, 2010. The site also launched a redesign.
ECHELON MAGAZINE, which serves LGBT business professionals, launched its first digital issue with its June/July 2010 issue.
FAB MAGAZINE, based in Toronto, published its 400th issue on June 9, 2010.
GAY CHICAGO MAGAZINE celebrated its 34th anniversary with its April 8, 2010, issue.
GAY POLITICS REPORT is the new name of the GAY & LESBIAN LEADERSHIP SMARTBRIEF, which is published by the Gay & Lesbian Leadership Institute and sponsored by the Washington, D.C.-based Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.
MICHAEL HATCHER, an account executive at Houston-based OUTSMART MAGAZINE, died on Feb. 16, 2010. He was 48.
INSTINCT MAGAZINE introduced its new iPad application, which kicked off with its June 2010 issue. The application will be available every month and will feature everything inside the magazine. The application is available for download on iTunes for $2.99 per issue.
OUTLOOK, based in Columbus, Ohio, celebrated its 15th anniversary by publishing its largest issue ever [112 pages) on June 2, 2010.
THE WASHINGTON BLADE won two 2010 Dateline Awards for Excellence in Local Journalism from the D.C. chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Senior news reporter LOU CHIBBARO JR won third place in the spot news category. Editor KEVIN NAFF won second place in the editorials, columns and commentary category.
JAMES DONALD WINTER, a longtime volunteer at the BALTIMORE GAY PAPER, died on Oct. 31, 2009. He was 86.
THE BULLETIN BOARD
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Publisher: Todd Evans, todd@PressPassQ.com
CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS ISSUE
DUANE BOOTH is publisher and editor in chief of gay lifestyle magazine abOUT. A journalist for more than 20 years, he has served as senior editor at three daily newspapers in Canada and has had articles published in more than 50 publications in North America. He is co-author of the acclaimed financial services book for gay couples, “Partners,” that was released in 2003 and is currently working on his own professional memoir due out in 2010.
CHUCK COLBERT is a freelance journalist based in Cambridge, Mass. He is a longtime contributor to the National Catholic Reporter and covered the crisis of clerical sex-abuse in the Boston archdiocese. Previously a senior reporter and columnist for the former In Newsweekly, he is a contributor to Keen News Service and Boston Spirit Magazine. Also, he has written for major mainstream daily newspapers and magazines, including the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Dallas Morning News, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle, and the Washington Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FRED KUHR is an editor, reporter, performer and personal trainer based in Toronto. He has written for The Advocate, AdWeek, Toronto-based Xtra, and Boston Spirit Magazine. He has also served as editor of now-defunct publications In Newsweekly [based in Boston) and Out in the Mountains [based in Vermont). He has served as a news analyst on the Fox News Channel and CBC Radio, as well as other media outlets. Fred blogs about politics and pop culture at the FredBlog at www.fred-blog.com and has been rated one of the top Twitterers of “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance.”
MICHAEL K. LAVERS is the National News Editor for EDGE Publications. His work has appeared in the Fire Island News, the Guide, the Village Voice and other LGBT and mainstream publications around the world. He has also provided commentaries on LGBT issues to the BBC, “The Brian Lehrer Show” on WNYC in New York, “La Razón” in Spain and other media outlets. He also blogs at Boy in Bushwick, which can be found at www.bushwickboy.blogspot.com.
DAVID WEBB worked for both mainstream and alternative media during his 25-year career, including LGBT newspaper Dallas Voice for seven years as a staff writer and news editor. He now lives on Cedar Creek Lake southeast of Dallas. In addition to freelancing, he authors the blog therarereporter.blogspot.com.
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