PRESS PASS Q
A Newsletter and Trade Publication for the LGBT Media Professional
FEBRUARY 2011 [Vol. 12, No. 11)
Celebrating over 11 years of serving our community of journalists
TABLE OF CONTENTS
FEATURE: National Gay Media Association unveiled: new coalition of gay media outlets formed to connect national advertisers with LGBT marketplace
by Chuck Colbert
The time is right for local LGBT media outlets to form a professional organization, according to Todd Evans, chief executive officer of Rivendell Media, the nation’s leading gay media ad placement firm. Already, he has assembled a group of publishers from eight regional LGBT media outlets and a respected gay and lesbian marketing firm to launch the National Gay Media Association, LLC.
The newly formed group aims to be “the premier vehicle for national advertisers to reach the gay and lesbian marketplace,” Evans told Press Pass Q. At the same time, the new group will “bring together common marketing procedures and standards, and encourage and promote national advertising.”
Founding members so far include Michigan’s Between the Lines, San Francisco-based Bay Area Reporter, Boston’s Bay Windows, Dallas Voice, Florida Agenda, New York’s Gay City News and Chicago’s Windy City Times, along with San Francisco-based Community Marketing, Inc.
Founding publishers and advertising directors could not be more enthusiastic. “I’ve always felt the need for gay media to form alliances on the business side and to have more clout with advertising agencies and corporations,” said Tracy Baim, publisher and executive editor of Windy City Times. “Rivendell already does this as an agency, so a lot of the function is in place. We are not starting from scratch.” Baim has agreed to be an informal spokesperson for the new group.
“Creating synergy is very important for LGBT media outlets today,” said Leo Cusimano, advertising director of Dallas Voice. “Any efforts to bring together LGBT media outlets will not only be helpful to each publication, but will also benefit the LGBT community as a whole.”
Cusimano agrees with Baim about increasing gay media clout. “Creating change takes place at the local level,” he said. “When I see an ad in a national LGBT publication or website, I think, ‘Look they are targeting us.” Moreover, “When I see an ad in a local LGBT publication or website, I think, ‘Look they are targeting me.’”
The local perspective is very important, Cusimano explained. “Particularly from a grassroots effort, we see brand switching from one product or service when advertisers utilize this local approach. This loyal demographic likes to do business with companies that advertise in their backyard."
For his part, Kevin Hopper, publisher of Florida Agenda, voiced excitement about Rivendell taking the lead. “It’s critical for the success of all local [and] regional gay media to have outreach to the Fortune 500 companies,” he said. "I think an organization like the National Gay Media Association will do just that.”
For Sue O’Connell, co-publisher of Bay Windows, formation of a gay media association “is a testament to our readership and our missions,” she said. “The cream of the crop is still publishing, producing quality journalism, and expanding. Simply sharing info and discussing issues will make us better newspapers.”
Susan Horowitz, co-publisher and editor of Between the Lines, also welcomes the potential for “camaraderie” and “sharing skills and experiences,” she said. “We all have unique regional challenges, but it really makes a difference to be able to network more conscientiously. My hope is our new gay media group expands the reach of who gets to participate.”
Horowitz envisions the organization being able to provide “some sort of training for smaller media companies” so they not only “survive from week to week,” but also “thrive.” As she explained, “This is the day of the Internet. With the benefits of [digital] resources, we don’t have to have weak [gay media] infrastructures in different parts of the country.”
Unlike its predecessor, the National Gay Newspaper Guild, which existed from 1988 to 2008, membership in the National Gay Media Association [NGMA) is open to print and digital platforms, including blogs. Both newspapers and newsmagazines are welcome to join. For a publication to qualify, however, an outlet has to be at least 50 percent gay-owned and be able to verify its circulation numbers.
Formed as a for-profit corporation, NGMA will collect dues for purposes of branding and advertising the organization. To avoid out-of-pocket funds for publishers, membership in NGMA will require a contribution of marketing dollars, based only on a sales-forward model. Rivendell will be the organization’s national sales representative.
So why is the timing right to organize gay media? In a word, it’s economics. Despite rumors of imminent demise, LGBT media are holding their own, although the combined circulation of all LGBT publications now stands at 2,387,750 – down 27.6 percent, a significant drop since 2008, according to last year’s Gay Press Report, a jointly sponsored study from Prime Access, Inc., a multi-cultural ad agency, and Rivendell Media.
And yet ad revenue for LGBT publications rose to an all-time high of $349.6 million in 2009, an increase of 13.6 percent over 2008 totals, according to the annual report.
By contrast, ad revenues for overall consumer magazines fell 15.6 percent to $10.53 billion, the lowest level since 1998.
Buying power in LGBT media is incentive to organize. Altogether, LGBT outlets garner "double the national ad sales of Hispanic or African-American media, which are better established with more titles and larger circulations,” according to Evans. “Only about two percent of their ads are national,” he said, comparing Hispanic and black outlets to gay media where national ads account for “about five percent.”
Playing catch-up is impetus for LGBT media unity. Other niche publications have a press association. For example, the Association of Alternative Weeklies is “a diverse group of 131 alt-weekly news organizations covering every major metropolitan area and other less-populated regions of North America,” according to the group’s website. Founded in 1978, the association estimates its combined weekly circulation at more than 6.5 million, with an overall readership of 17 million through the web and mobile devices.
By comparison, the number of LGBT print media outlets in the U.S. has varied over time from as few as a handful to more than 200, according to estimates. By 2009, however, the number dropped below 200.
Still, through the web and mobile products, LGBT media reach well beyond their estimated 2.4 million print-circulation readership.
That long and deep reach into the gay market is no small measure when compared with the much smaller readership of national LGBT publications, which is estimated at most to be several-hundred thousand. OUT Magazine, for example, has a print circulation of 190,000, with Metro Source at 125,000 and Passport at 71,000.
For Troy Masters, associate publisher and founder of Gay City News, ever-evolving digital technology offers special opportunities for the NGMA. “How many gay newspapers really offer world-class, multi-media products?” he said, referring to iPad apps, mobile products and top-notch websites. “As we move forward, the pressure to offer those things, maintain them and make them increasingly competitive will become intense.”
Collaboration will be key in offering new technologies for gay media, Masters said, “but to do so in a way that maintains the individual flavor and identity of the various publications.”
There is no question that, for LGBT media, digital technology holds out potential for big bucks in ad-sales revenue. "Advertisers will eventually pay very big money for display ads on both tablet and mobile media, but only in those media where the daily active community of users is in the hundreds of thousands," Masters explained, referring to the examples of mainstream media players like the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and CNN.
"We would all have to agree on web technologies and platforms, operational goals and standards," he said, readily acknowledging, "That's a longer discussion and big financial investment."
Yet, "The result might be that Rivendell could sell an ad in one week for $150,000 across local LGBT media nationwide that would benefit all of us."
In any event, “As a group we can be a very powerful force in journalism,” Masters said. “That's the point of the National Gay Media Association.”
[Editor’s note: Rivendell Media owns Press Pass Q. Todd Evans is its publisher.)
IN THE NEWS: Boston paper on a quest to interview new U.S. senator from Massachusetts
Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Scott Brown is on a media roll. The Boston Globe named him Bostonian of the Year for 2010. Lately, he has given several interviews to mainstream media. A year ago last month, after winning a special election to fill the seat of the late Edward M. Kennedy, Brown graced the cover of the New York Times Magazine. Most recently, Brown told CBS’ "60 Minutes" that a summer camp counselor had sexually molested him as a young boy.
But the handsome and fit senator, who campaigned as a Cosmopolitan-modeling, barn-jacket-wearing, pickup-truck-driving man of the people, has yet to speak with local LGBT media, despite repeated outreach attempts.
Sue O’Connell, co-publisher of Boston-based Bay Windows, discussed efforts to speak with Brown, which have included numerous phone calls and e-mail correspondence, offering an invitation for a telephone conversation or a face-to-face interview. Bay Windows contacted staffers in the senator’s Boston and Washington offices.
“I have a hard time believing that someone who took ‘the people’s seat’ will not reach out to the LGBT community via Bay Windows. That’s the part I find disturbing," O’Connell told Press Pass Q. “We had a sit-down interview with Mitt Romney [the former Republican governor]. It’s a little astonishing to me that in this day and age, this is the path Sen. Brown is taking.”
O’Connell, who serves as acting editor in chief, said that she and associate editor Hannah Clare Wareham also invited Brown to submit a guest opinion. Eventually, Bay Windows went public, running blank space to underscore the repeated rebuffs.
Also as a way of chiding the senator, Bay Windows continues to run a photo of Brown along with a stopwatch on its front page, counting the days the senator has been in office and not spoken with LGBT media.
Admittedly, O’Connell did not seek an interview during the campaign. “Mostly because we were sure we would be endorsing [Democrat and state attorney general] Martha Coakley. We are not one to waste people’s time.”
After Brown’s victory, Bay Windows’ outreach began. “Within the first several months, we’d get a response back, but then nothing would happen. They would say, ‘We’ll bring it to someone’s attention,’ or, ‘We will get back to you. Sounds like a good idea,’” O’Connell explained. “I also sought out folks in the [mainstream] media who know him, saying we’re not going to surprise or ambush the senator. We just want to have a talk with him about what he is going to do for the LGBT community and constituents.”
O’Connell also appealed to Brown’s Washington press person, who she said responded, “We’re going to pass at this time.”
A long-time lawyer in the Army National Guard, Brown crossed party lines, voting to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on openly gay military service.” But his views on other issues of importance to gay constituents are largely unknown, such as his stance on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act [ENDA), the Student Non-Discrimination Act, the Uniting American Families Act and repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA).
A former state lawmaker, Brown consistently voted against marriage equality in the Legislature.
Co-publisher O’Connell is a realist. “The pragmatic and practical part of me says he does not want to have any pro-gay statements in print that can be used against him by the Republicans or a Tea Party challenger," she said.
The reality of Republican Party politics may well explain Brown’s shying away from gay media exposure. He is up for re-election in 2012. Already, the senator has drawn the ire of social conservatives with his “don’t ask, don’t tell” vote.
The experience of the GOP’s state party chairwoman may be dictating Brown’s reticence. Although re-elected to the party position in a landslide in December, Jennifer Nassour’s challenger slammed her for what he termed “a Bay Windows surrender,” according to the Boston Globe. The criticism referred to a 2009 interview that Nassour gave to Bay Windows. The chairwoman said that gay marriage would no longer be an issue for the party. Some conservative activists have not forgiven Nassour for granting the interview and making the comment.
— Chuck Colbert
South Florida paper’s editors quit over story dispute
Did a South Florida gay newspaper censor an article that would have been critical of an advertiser? Dmitry Rashnitsov and Jeremy Jones, now-former editors at the Florida Agenda, certainly think so.
The saga began when Rashnitsov said someone stole his cell phone at the Living Room Nightclub in Fort Lauderdale. The club advertises in the Agenda’s sister publication, Mark Magazine, but Rashnitsov said he discovered cell phone thefts at the Living Room Nightclub were not isolated incidents.
Jeremy Jones, who was then the Agenda’s news editor, told Press Pass Q that he decided to run the story to alert his readers about the situation. Local gay media accounts indicate the nightclub’s management allegedly threatened it would pull their advertising out of the Agenda and other publications that Multi Media Platforms owns. Jones said Agenda publisher Kevin Hopper said he would not publish the story.
“I informed the Agenda that if the story did not run, we would quit,” said Jones. “As the editor in chief, I had a responsibility to report a story that was affecting the LGBT community. Do thefts occur at other nightclubs? Of course they do. But the Living Room situation is one that has been going on for more than a year now. The story was not to single out Living Room, but to let readers know that we've got a problem, so what can we do to solve it?”
Both Jones and Rashnitsov resigned after Hopper allegedly decided not to run the Living Room Nightclub story. Hooper did not respond to Press Pass Q’s requests for comment, but Jones said his former boss was “very supportive during the entire process.” He also said Hooper understood from where he and Rashnitsov were coming.
“In the end, we all work for someone,” said Jones. “… But we weren't going to sacrifice principles for profits. As a journalist, if you do not have your integrity or principles, you have nothing more than a pen and a notebook, and that doesn't cut it.”
— Michael K. Lavers
San Diego gets another new publication
San Diego’s LGBT media landscape has become even more crowded.
Stampp Corbin, who was a political writer for the Gay and Lesbian Times for two years, has launched San Diego LGBT Weekly. The inaugural issue was published in November.
”We’re sort of like a synopsis of what we think you should know that happened during the week,” said Corbin. “This is what you should know in terms of local news, national news, world news, about our rights.”
San Diego LGBT Weekly has a weekly circulation of 9,500 in San Diego County. Its distribution stretches from Chula Vista to La Jolla, including Hillcrest, University City and other Central City neighborhoods in which many LGBT San Diegans live.
Corbin said the newspaper’s typical readers are in their mid- to late-30s.
“Generally as you get older, you tend to read more in-depth coverage of an issue,” he said. “We hope to bring that to the floor.”
San Diego LGBT Weekly joins an already crowded LGBT media landscape in San Diego. Gay San Diego, which is affiliated with the mainstream community paper San Diego Uptown News, published its first issue last July. SD Arts Tix covers San Diego’s music, dance and theatre scenes. And Rage is a monthly gay lifestyle magazine.
The Gay and Lesbian Times folded in early October – and former publisher Michael Portantino committed suicide in December.
As for Corbin, he remains confident San Diego LGBT Weekly can offer readers something the city’s other publications do not. He touted an analysis of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal bill that predicted almost every Republican senator who would support the measure as proof his publication is “more thoughtful than our competitors.”
“We’re putting in the effort for more analysis,” added Corbin.
The newspaper’s website [lgbtweekly.com) went live in February. San Diego LGBT Weekly also has a Facebook and Twitter presence.
“We’re more like a New York Times or a Los Angeles Times,” said Corbin, noting he wanted to effectively develop their online strategy before they launched their website. “It’s going to be the top 15-20 stories we think are relevant right now. Some of our competitors have 75 stories on the front page. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me because the website should be more about what’s happening right now.”
— Michael K. Lavers
Vermont publication makes controversial comeback
Vermonters may have thought they had seen the last of Out in the Mountains, which shut down due to financial difficulties in 2006. But the publication has made a surprise comeback.
In late January, a new incarnation of Out in the Mountains appeared on the web – www.oitm.org.
The site features local and national news stories, as well as a statewide listing of HIV testing centers and a directory of LGBT-owned and friendly businesses in Vermont. There is also a list of social events throughout the state and a section called Coming Out, which is still under construction.
OITM.org is also soliciting donations from readers and using Amazon.com as a fundraising partner.
The editor of this new iteration of Out in the Mountains is John Fedor-Cunningham, a freelance writer and website designer who confesses to having little journalistic experience. Fedor-Cunningham said he wrote articles for the original Out in the Mountains.
Right now, the publication is a bare-bones operation: no offices, a handful of volunteers, and very little money.
“When [Out in the Mountains] was founded in the ‘80s, it was very much a community paper,” Fedor-Cunningham told Press Pass Q. “One of the things that we're trying to address is that in a very rural state, a lot of people can feel very socially isolated.”
The original Out in the Mountains was founded in 1985 and was published by Mountain Pride Media, based in the state’s largest city of Burlington.
Fedor-Cunningham would like to expand OITM to include a print edition, but is happy with just running the website for now.
Fedor-Cunningham noted the mission of the new OITM was to combine an old-fashioned community publication with the latest technologies and social networks.
However, visitors to OITM.org have noticed there are no bylines attached to any of the news stories or editorials on the site. There is no listing of editorial personnel or website owner.
Kip Roberson, who worked with the Out In The Mountains as a volunteer in the early ‘90s, said he was recently kicked off of OITM's Facebook page for asking questions.
“Its legitimacy is at best questionable,” said Roberson, who has concerns about the financial structure of the publication. “Is OITM.org a legitimate 501[c)3 nonprofit organization as implied by the .org in its web address? Before I shop at Amazon.com or donate funds directly to this newly formed entity, I want to know if my donations are tax deductible or merely going into an individual's pocket rather than being put back into the further development of a legitimate news outlet.”
Fedor-Cunningham said he would allow writers’ names to be mentioned on the site if they so wished it.
“I'm hoping that someone with some formal journalistic training might step forward and want to volunteer to help out,” Fedor-Cunningham said.
As for the money, Fedor-Cunningham said all the volunteers are donating their funds to keep OITM alive. Fedor-Cunningham is collecting the contributions to “expand the publication and make it better.”
But one former staffer of the newspaper has doubts.
“I don't think [Fedor-Cunningham] is malicious, just ill- advised,” said Barb Dozetos, one-time editor of Out in the Mountains.
Dozetos is not pleased with the omission of bylines for the site's stories and has suspicions about how money from contributors will be spent. The new OITM is not a nonprofit like the original had been, Dozetos observed.
“This is not a function of the same not-for-profit umbrella that Out In The Mountains used to be,” said Dozetos. “The .org is misleading. It might make the uninformed think that it’s the same organizational structure that it used to be, and it is not.”
Press Pass Q editor Fred Kuhr is also a former editor of Out In The Mountains.
Roberson said the new OITM is “a shell of what it was before,” adding, “It needs to be much more transparent than it is.”
In related news, OITM's website was allegedly hacked.
On Monday, January 31, the website was shut down for more than two hours after “two OITM volunteers were called by a person posing as a gay reporter, demanding to know the location of our offices and if we received any public funding,” read a message on OITM's Facebook page.
“The caller ID used by the person posing as a gay reporter was traced to a VOIP [Voice Over Internet Protocol) service located in northern Virginia. Out in the Mountains contacted the publication that the imposter claimed to be writing for, and they had never heard of him.”
The message did not give the name of the newspaper the alleged reporter claimed to be writing for. Fedor-Cunningham did not return repeated calls seeking comment on this latest incident.
— Joe Siegel
PRESSING QUESTIONS: will return next month
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Washington Blade foundation not a first
Regarding the article "Washington Blade forms first-of-its-kind foundation” [In The News, January 2011), I'm delighted to learn that the Washington Blade has established a foundation to support its ongoing publication. The foundation is not, however, the first of its kind.
Since the death of founding publisher Bob Ross in 2003, the weekly Bay Area Reporter in San Francisco has been owned by the Bob Ross Foundation, a nonprofit set up under the terms of his will.
Another, and much earlier, example also comes to mind. The Boston-based national weekly newspaper Gay Community News was published by the Bromfield Street Educational Foundation. The records of the latter organization are preserved at the Northeastern University Libraries: http://www.lib.neu.edu/archives/collect/findaids/m64findbioghist.htm.
[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.)
GERRY DAVIDSON, the previous owner of Johannesburg, South Africa-based EXIT, died Sept. 30, 2010, of an apparent heart attack.
GAY CHICAGO MAGAZINE moved into its new office space, at 723 W. Belmont Avenue, in January 2011.
GLOSS MAGAZINE, based in San Francisco, entered its ninth year of publishing with its Jan. 14, 2011, issue.
GOLDEN RAINBOW TIMES, a 3-year-old monthly newspaper based in Tewksbury, Mass., targeting older LGBT readers, has been acquired by Boston-based BAY WINDOWS. As of Feb. 17, the former became a monthly insert of the latter.
HOT SPOTS, based in Oakland Park, Fla., published its 25th anniversary issue on Dec. 9, 2010.
LAVENDER MAGAZINE, based in Minneapolis, won three Excellence Awards at the 14th annual Minnesota Magazine & Publishing Association Gala on Nov. 4, 2010. The publication won gold in the Best Media Kit category, silver for Best Single Cover and Bronze for Best Editor’s or Publisher’s Editorial or Letter to the Readers.
HENRY MCCLURG, who founded the MONTROSE GEM eight years ago, returned to the Houston, Tex.-based publication in November 2010 as associate publisher and advertising sales director.
PHILADELPHIA GAY NEWS celebrated its 35th anniversary with its Feb. 18, 2011, issue, its biggest issue ever.
PHOENIX MAGAZINE, based in Fort Wayne, Ind., celebrated its first anniversary with its January 2011 issue.
QUEST, based in Milwaukee, Wisc., published with a glossy cover for the first time with its Dec. 10, 2010 issue.
SHE MAGAZINE, based in Davie, Fla., celebrated its 12th anniversary with its February 2011 issue.
THE BULLETIN BOARD
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Publisher: Todd Evans, todd@PressPassQ.com
CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS ISSUE
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 email@example.com.
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.
JOE SIEGEL is a freelance journalist based in Rhode Island. He has written for several New England-based LGBT publications, including In Newsweekly, EDGE Providence, Options and The Rainbow Times. In addition, he has been a reporter for the Attleboro, Mass.-based Sun Chronicle newspaper for the past 8 years. He can he reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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