PRESS PASS Q
A Newsletter for the Gay and Lesbian Press Professional
February 2005 (Vol. 6, No. 11)
A Publication of Rivendell Media and Q Syndicate
TABLE OF CONTENTS
FEATURE: I came, I saw, I published
A cynical bystander might say that working in the queer media is a mark of naivete or folly. But for those who've put in many years, the answer, more often than not, is that their involvement came about by accident. And they've stuck with it out of a sense of community.
Fred Palmer was very much an activist back when, but he said his queer media work was unplanned. The 1993 gay rights March on Washington partly inspired him to take up the pen and communicate with others on a larger scale. (Judging by the number of LGBT publications celebrating their 11th and 12th anniversaries this year, that march may have inspired quite a few media mavens.)
Palmer, who was working as a telecommunications executive, saw an opportunity arise when he met and really liked Sacramento's Kate Moore, owner of the queer monthly The Latest Issue. Palmer said working part-time at the paper was fun.
Moore was later diagnosed with leukemia, and in 1995 decided to shut down The Latest Issue. Palmer said the closing would have left a gap in Northern California, and so he founded Outword. "Glamour, fame, fortune - not. I enjoy the ability to provide a voice for the many diversities of our community. My goal is to inspire, educate, and inform." (Moore later recovered, and pops by Outword's offices to help on particularly busy weekends.)
Four years ago, Palmer left his high-level corporate job to run Outword full time. It was always his goal to take the publication statewide, and in October of 2004, Palmer founded a second edition, Outword Southern California. "I feel that our community is not always informed on statewide issues as well as we are with regional. We need to be one loud voice."
Asked why he got involved in the queer media, Washington, D.C.-based Metro Weekly publisher Randy Shulman said simply: "I fell into it."
After 12 years as a freelance film and theater critic for various small papers, Shulman saw an opportunity at the gay Michael's Entertainment Weekly. "I got the owner to agree to let me edit it, and I started to develop things, and it kind of started to take off." One day in 1994, the owner walked in and told the staff he was pulling the plug on the year-old publication.
Shulman and an advertising director, hired only weeks before, gave themselves three weeks to come out with their first issue, and managed to keep all the advertisers from Michael's.
"I've always thought back on it: why did I decide to do that? And frankly, I don't have a good answer other than I felt that as a gay man, it would be interesting to put out a quality gay publication." While his start wasn't politically motivated, Shulman said he's embraced political causes since launching.
He still loves the job: "Now that I've done it for so long, I can't imagine not going through that rush of creativity every week."
Tony and Ed Molnar-Strejcek are partners in both life and business, running the Pittsburgh, Pa.-based monthly, Out. (The two were joined in a civil union in 2001, and hyphenated their last names; they're also raising three kids.)
Tony had worked at Out for eight years before the pair bought it in 1994. The previous owner had moved out of state: "After a few years, it was difficult for him to participate in the daily operations of an out-of-state newspaper," said Ed. The pair felt it important for the tristate LGBT community (Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia) to have a quality newspaper. Further, Out was founded in 1973, and Ed admitted: "We were seduced by the idea of being part of the history of one of the oldest regional publications in the country."
Of course, publishers can't do it all on their own. One long-time writer's voice is that of Atlanta-based syndicated columnist Steve Warren, an entertainment specialist who just celebrated 30 years in the LGBT media business. With a broadcasting degree, Warren worked full-time at small mainstream radio stations for a few years as a jack-of-all-trades (both on air and off). "I started doing entertainment reviews, which my bosses let me air as long as I did the reviewing on my own time." In 1994, as a member of Atlanta’s Metropolitan Community Church, Warren typed up a press release to publicize an upcoming appearance by church founder Rev. Troy Perry.
The press release became the lead article in that month’s gossip-filled Atlanta Barb (the city's first gay publication). Warren then offered a monthly movie review column: "I thought the paper needed a touch of professionalism I was qualified to supply," Warren said. "I could write without keeping one foot in the closet, as I did for my mainstream outlets."
One thing about the LGBT press that's stayed the same over the years - the low pay - caused Warren to get into syndication, "on the theory that nickels and dimes would add up to dollars.” He said this plan would have worked if everyone had paid him what they'd owed.
"There have been times (like, almost always) when I've felt underappreciated by the queer press, but forgetting about them would be as difficult as forgetting that I'm queer. I may shift emphasis in prioritizing my time, depending on what else is going on in my life, but when I commit to supplying copy, I feel obligated to do so, even if the papers aren't equally committed to publishing it."
HOW MANY ARE READING NATIONAL GLOSSIES? Despite conventional wisdom that the national gay magazine audience has reached a saturation point, circulation numbers show that the readership of national glossies has increased over the last few years.
The lifestyle title Out, owned by LPI Media, appears to still be the most read gay national magazine, with a circulation of 127,000 copies, with numbers verified by the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC). The Advocate, also owned by LPI and also audited by ABC, is not far behind, with a circulation of 118,000 copies.
"Circulation" refers to the number of copies of a magazine issue that actually gets into readers' hands (including subscriptions), as opposed to "print run," which is a count of how many copies of an issue are produced.
The totals for both Out and The Advocate have gone up in each of the past three years, according to company spokesperson Eric Chandler, who said the buildups are due largely to greater direct mail promotions to generate subscribers. "Out's circulation has increased 23 percent, growing from 103,000 at the end of 2001 to 127,000 in January 2005," Chandler noted. "The Advocate’s circulation has increased 25 percent, growing from 94,000 at the end of 2001 to 118,000 in January 2005."
Chandler said The Advocate "has been utilizing direct mail as its major source of subscriptions since 1979. Many gay men and lesbians will remember that the first piece of direct mail they ever received from a gay organization was a subscription offer from The Advocate." The company, he said, sends more than 3 million pieces of direct mail annually (for both The Advocate and Out). "We continually test formats, prices, free issues, premiums, and other offers in many different packages to attract new readers to our magazines."
While LPI has impressive numbers, 8-year-old Instinct magazine is the success story of the moment. Its totals aren't as high, but its growth rate is noteworthy.
"Everyone always says that LGBT magazines can't grow anymore. We proved them wrong," said publisher JR Pratts. "If we were a straight publication, the growth of our magazine would have put us on the front page of Advertising Age magazine."
According to Pratts, Instinct has a print run of 105,000 copies and a circulation of 83,000. The company put out a press release announcing a 36 percent rate-base growth for this year, going from 55,000 in 2004 to 75,000 for 2005. (The rate base is the number of copies a magazine guarantees to advertisers that it will get in the hands of readers.) That one-year hike is more than The Advocate grew between the end of 2001 and January 2005.
Instinct is audited by BPA Worldwide.
Pratts doesn't feel that he is going after the same readers as his competitors. "When we first started, most gay publications were staid and safe, very vanilla.... We wanted to make a gay magazine for gay men that was not embarrassed about sexuality, because that is part of who we are. It caused an uproar, but it also got a response.... We [gay magazines] can't all be the same anyway. That would be the death knell of the industry."
Genre is another national glossy. Publisher Michele Chicoine was unavailable to be interviewed for this article, but in July 2003, outgoing majority shareholder, Richard Settles, reported a print run of 55,000. At that time, the magazine was sold to Avalon Equity Fund, L.P. (the same company that has invested in Window Media, owners of the Washington Blade, New York Blade, Houston Voice, and Southern Voice newspapers). Genre's masthead carries no indication of an independent auditing service.
Nonetheless, an industry insider said the majority of Genre's readers are thought to be paying subscribers - as are those who read The Advocate, Out, and Instinct, according to their auditors' statements. Some industry folk baldly state that paid subscribers are more committed, while those receiving a magazine for free are less committed to a cover-to-cover read - or to reading at all! Others say controlled circulation allows for a more targeted and loyal readership.
MetroSource is another player in the gay glossy market, but most of its copies are available for free. However, unlike those receiving a (sometimes unrequested) controlled circulation magazine in the mail, MetroSource readers must make an active effort to pick it up.
And they do. MetroSource expanded beyond its New York and national editions to launch a Los Angeles volume in November of last year. MetroSource has an ABC-audited circulation of 120,000, according to publisher Rob Davis. (That's a total for all three editions, which breaks down into 45,000 for the new L.A. impression - which reaches as far as Palm Springs - 55,000 for the New York City metro version, and 20,000 for the national issue - with more than half of those copies circulated in the Boston metro area.)
When asked how, if at all, MetroSource readers differ from Out or Advocate readers, Davis said that his publications are geared more to urban readers on the East and West Coasts.
Davis said that his magazines have the highest circulations of any of his competitors in the cities of New York, L.A., and Boston. And he added that the L.A. launch has been so successful that the company is considering other city-specific editions.
FAREWELL TO TWO NATIONAL PUBS, PLUS AN ATLANTA DIGEST. Two publications have shut down, and another will produce its last issue in April.
The last copy of Atlanta's weekly glossy night life digest Hotspots came out on Jan. 6. It first appeared in October 2002.
The company still publishes the flagship Hotspots in Fort Lauderdale. Publisher Jason Bell said only: "If I can't make a good profit at something, I close it; no sense in running a business and only making a couple thousand dollars a week. That's just not worth the hassle."
The monthly tabloid Women's Review of Books, founded in October 1983, published its final edition in December. Editor in chief Amy Hoffman said that the four paid staff members were laid off.
The publication has a debt of US$200,000, according to its website, which the sponsor, the Wellesley Centers for Women, can no longer carry: "[W]e are exploring the possibility of finding an additional institution - or long-term donor - to... reconceive and relaunch the publication."
And finally, In the Family: The Magazine for Queer People and Their Loved Ones is a 10-year-old quarterly for mental health professionals who work with LGBT clients. It's proceeding with an extremely orderly shutdown, with notices going out in November and a final issue scheduled for April.
"[W]e're making this choice not out of necessity, but out of a sense that we've accomplished something we're proud of, and now it's time to move on," said publisher and editor Laura Markowitz. "There are so many more organizations out there covering queer family life now, compared to when we started, and more LGBT mags are covering family and relationships. We hope we were a good influence on the community."
The glossy magazine's first issue appeared in July 1995. The print run is now down to 1,000 because Markowitz stopped sending out renewal notices (circulation is largely subscription-based). "Over the years, distribution in the United States became prohibitively expensive, [but] in Canada we do very well on the newsstand and the costs to us are low."
Markowitz, a freelance writer and editor who's based in Tucson, Ariz., works on the magazine part-time. She said it is a financial success, but that she's looking for a new challenge.
- Eleanor Brown
WHO IS... Sean Strub?
Eleven years ago, Sean Strub founded POZ magazine, chronicling the HIV epidemic 10 times yearly (and later, in a Spanish-language edition, as well). Tough topic, but it made quite a splash and is a successful magazine. Strub is now chair of the publication's board, splitting his time between New York and Milford, Pa., though he admits to spending most of this winter in Key West. Strub said he's trying to allot more time to writing. Press Pass Q chatted with Strub by e-mail.
Press Pass Q: Who is family to you?
What are you reading?
Who is your favorite fictional hero?
What's your most prized possession?
What's the most important thing that ever happened to you?
What's the one thing you're insecure about?
What annoys you the most?
What print or online publications do you read?
Do you see POZ magazine as being a part of the LGBT media? How so?
How did you get into the LGBT media business?
In 1980, I was a volunteer copy editor for the New York Native, when I wasn't running political organizations and campaigns. Then I started a direct mail fundraising business which specialized in political and social change organizations. I was volunteering with some gay rights groups and they ultimately became paying (sometimes) clients. I would create effective letters, but we didn't have enough names to mail them to, so I started creating databases, which led me to working with gay publications' subscription marketing. POZ really started when I would collect information about the epidemic and fax it to friends around the country, in the early 1980s. Then that turned into a treatment newsletter and then, in 1994, into POZ.
Incidentally, Joe DiSabato, who started [Press Pass Q's publisher] Rivendell Media, was the person who really got me interested in the idea of a gay "market" and how that could influence the political and cultural movement. Most of the gay advertising agencies today don't have much of a political or activist profile; indeed many resist precisely that identity, but in the early days, people like Joe were very much activists and pioneers.
In one sentence, tell queer media folk what they need to know about this business.
*Writer MARC ACITO has retired his syndicated column, "The Gospel According to Marc," after four years. His first book was just nominated for a Lambda Literary Award (see below). Acito wrote in his farewell piece that touring and other work is now taking up too much of his time. "I need to focus on writing more books."
*BALTIMORE OUTLOUD has recruited JON A. KAPLAN as a wellness and lifestyle writer. The paper marked the occasion by launching a competition seeking readers interested in an eight-week fitness program, with progress monitored in the paper. Prizes will go to the top losers (of weight). In other news, OutLoud writer MEREDITH MOISES has been hired away as a field organizer by the lobby group Equality Maryland.
*MARGE BARTON, a longtime associate of the New York-based GAYELLOW PAGES, died Dec. 2 at the age of 74.
*Syndicated writer KEITH BOYKIN has published "Beyond the Down Low" (Carroll & Graf). Boykin is also included in the just-released anthology "Freedom in This Village: Twenty-Five Years of Black Gay Men's Writing" (Carroll & Graf), edited by E. Lynn Harris.
*The state-run CANADA POST has refused unaddressed, door-to-door delivery of the newsletter of The Art of Loving bookstore, art gallery, and sex shop, reported Vancouver, Canada's Xtra West. A Canada Post executive allegedly said that the content is "inappropriate for delivery to the general public."
*After three years as editor of the Key West biweekly, CELEBRATE, MICHAEL L. KILGORE has passed the torch to feature writer NATHAN GAY. Kilgore becomes the part-time business manager.
*CYBERSOCKET MAGAZINE has been named GLBT Company of the Year in the third annual Xbiz Adult Industry Awards.
*WAYNE FRIDAY, 66, announced his retirement from the BAY AREA REPORTER in December, following a 30-year career as the paper's political editor and columnist. A San Francisco Examiner writer noted that Friday "played a central role in the emergence of the gay community as a political force in San Francisco," and called his work "lively" and "gossipy." Friday took over BAR's political column in 1975 from Harvey Milk (who two years later became one of the first gay elected officials in the United States; Milk was killed soon after.)
*FRONTIERS (Los Angeles) owners and staff recently held a weekend retreat and crafted a mission statement: "To provide our readers with leading edge news, lifestyle coverage, and other relevant community information with compelling style as well as impeccable journalistic integrity." And in a Feb. 2 message to readers, five of six co-owners wrote that they were breaking with tradition by refusing to make an editorial endorsement in the race for the West Hollywood City Council elections. "[B]ecause one of the owners of this magazine is John Duran, the incumbent mayor of West Hollywood and a candidate in the upcoming election, we feel making no endorsement is the only way we can avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest." Duran is a minority owner and "exercises no managerial control over this publication." (Duran didn't sign the letter to readers.)
*JOAN GARRY will step down from her position as executive director of GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) in June. She's held the job for eight years.
*GAYGUIDETORONTO.COM contributor STEVE BAKOWSKI, 36, died Dec. 21. He is survived by his partner, Brock Stackhouse.
*GAYGUIDETORONTO.COM columnist MURRAY JOSE ("Poz P.O.V.") has been appointed the new executive director of the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation. In other news, GGT columnist Enrico Mandarino was recently appointed to the Canadian Health Minister's advisory Ministerial Council on HIV/AIDS.
*Chicago's glossy digest GO GUIDE lifestyle and calendar published its inaugural issue in August (this is a 2004 publication launch Press Pass Q missed in last issue's annual round-up). The print run is 20,000, a free stand-alone four-color glossy (5.5 by 8.5) published by the same company that produces the Chicago Free Press (CFP). Said editor Lisa Neff: "Well, of course we wanted to create a new revenue stream.... And we wanted to expand the services we offer CFP's readers... but we also expect the Go Guide to appeal to some people unfamiliar with CFP and, charmed with the Go Guide, they'll check out CFP." It will appear four times a year (February, May, August, and November).
*After three years, MATT HEIL has left his job as assistant editor at the Phoenix, Ariz., ECHO to work as an aide to a city councilor.
*Two Boston publications were honored in the 2005 New England Press Association Awards. IN NEWSWEEKLY won first place in its class's Infographics category (for a flow chart of the Massachusetts' Constitutional Convention process, produced by JAMES LOPATA), second place for Niche Publication (for the paper's New England Pride Guide), and third place for Best Idea for Generating Ad Sales (for its travel and lifestyle magazine, Winter). The rival weekly BAY WINDOWS won first place for Advertising Supplement and for Local Ad (Color) Alternative Weekly. It won second place for Paper Circulation Promotion, and staffer LAURA KIRITSY won second place for General News Story Alternative Weekly.
*JOHN KLAMIK died Jan. 5 in Anaheim, Calif., following a lung cancer diagnosis, a series of strokes, and pneumonia. Klamik, a book illustrator and artist, was 69. He drew editorial cartons for the Advocate under the name "Buckshot" in the early 1970s. As "Shawn," he contributed cartoons to other LGBT publications, and used the name "Sean" for more specialized gay publications (such as Drummer). Klamik is survived by his companion of 40 years, Jim Newberry.
*The 17th annual LAMBDA LITERARY AWARDS finalists have been announced. LGBT press contributors include: In the category of Gay Men's Debut Fiction, syndicated columnist MARC ACITO for "How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theater" (Doubleday Broadway); in Memoir/Autobiography, former GayToday.com editor JACK NICHOLS for "The Tomcat Chronicles" (Haworth Press); in Erotica, syndicated "Book Marks" reviewer RICHARD LABONTE, editor of "Best Gay Erotica 2005" (Cleis Press), and writer TRISTAN TAORMINO, editor of "Best Lesbian Erotica 2005" (Cleis Press); in Humor, cartoonist GREG FOX for "Kyle's Bed & Breakfast" (Kensington Publishing), and syndicated writer MICHAEL ALVEAR with Vicky A. Shecter for "Alexander the Fabulous" (Advocate Books); in LGBT Studies, newsletter editor and activist ABIGAIL GARNER for "Families Like Mine" (Harper Collins). Winners will be announced June 2 in New York City.
*The University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication will establish the LEROY F. AARONS SUMMER INSTITUTE ON SEXUAL ORIENTATION ISSUES IN THE NEWS. Aarons died in November at 70. He founded and became the first president of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association in 1990. Aarons spent most of his journalism career working for the mainstream press, but later became the chair of the board of We The People, an LGBT monthly newspaper covering the area north of San Francisco Bay (Sonoma and Marin counties).
*MARILYN MURPHY died Nov. 8 in Arizona at the age of 72. A longtime activist, she joined LESBIAN NEWS (Torrance, Calif.) in 1982, writing a column titled "Lesbian Logic" (from which she had retired). A selection of her columns appeared in the 1991 book, "Are You Girls Traveling Alone?" Murphy is survived by her partner, Irene Weiss.
*The NATIONAL GAY AND LESBIAN TASK FORCE is accepting applications from high school seniors and undergraduate college students planning to pursue a four-year college or university degree in journalism or communications. The deadline for the Messenger-Anderson Journalism Internship/Scholarship Program for LGBT students is Feb. 25. See http://www.thetaskforce.org/aboutus/messenger.cfm.
*The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BLACK JOURNALISTS (NABJ) has recognized a 46-member LGBT Task Force. Board members voted 13 to 5 in favor of the recognition on Jan. 23. The task force is co-chaired by Newsweek's Marcus Mabry and New York Post reporter Frankie Edozien. The decision was made a day after a presentation by Mabry that was supported by members of the NABJ such as openly gay former president Tom Morgan, and National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association members like freelancer Hassan L. Sudler (former editor of the queer Rehoboth Beach EXP).
*The National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association's 2005 LGBT MEDIA SUMMIT will be held in Chicago on Sept. 22. See http://www.nlgja.org/.
*North American producers of newsprint saw a drop in consumption of 16 percent between 1999 and 2004, according to the Toronto Globe and Mail. Print publishers are increasingly transferring some content to the Internet and cutting the size of their publications to save on paper costs. In turn, newsprint companies are trying to keep clients by delaying scheduled price increases - which in turn is hurting profitability.
*REVISTA ADELANTE, a bilingual Spanish-English monthly based in Los Angeles, was named best (local) publication at the West Hollywood fourth annual WeHo Awards in December. CYBERSOCKET.COM was named outstanding (locally based) national publication.
*The SEATTLE GAY NEWS youth page has had a name change, to "Censor This." Project editor DAVID LUC NGUYEN wrote, "We aren't just 'gay youth' - we are an entire generation that needs to be heard.... We challenge the world to Censor This."
*WALLY SHERWOOD, author of the New Orleans' AMBUSH MAGAZINE column "Sherwood's Forest," has been nominated as Man of the Year in the Pantheon of Leather Awards for 2005.
*TRAVIS STANTON is no longer with LAVENDER MAGAZINE (Minneapolis, Minn.). He was managing editor for two years.
*JESSE STONG is the new writer of FAB Toronto's "Twink" column.
*Chicago's MICHAEL SUKOWSKI is the new editor of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association newsletter, OUTLOOK. He takes over from
*After a nine-month stay in a rehabilitation center, the TRIANGLE JOURNAL NEWS' JOHN STILWELL is now back home with his partner of almost 30 years, TJN publisher and editor ALLEN COOK. Stilwell suffered a stroke in March.
*JOSELLE VANDERHOOFT is now the QVEGAS national news correspondent.
*More staff shuffles at XTRA (Toronto): Publisher and editor in chief DAVID WALBERG leaves both positions to take a job created specifically for him, that of publisher and editor at large, in which he will prepare editorial content for Xtra, Xtra West (Vancouver), Capital Xtra (Ottawa), and two websites (Xtra.ca and Squirt.ca). A notice to staff reads: "His mandate is to provide journalism that transcends the necessarily local focus of our papers while remaining relevant to our readers." Xtra associate publisher BRANDON MATHESON takes over both of Walberg's old jobs. And account manager MATT MILLS leaves Xtra's advertising department for Vancouver, where he's joining the XTRA WEST editorial department as an editor/reporter.
"The new faces" (Press Pass Q, January 2005)
I have to take issue with a statement in the section that describes new publications that have debuted this past year.
The statement made by Church Street Freedom Press publisher Tim Toonen that in Nashville, locals had "no timely way to get any news, the niche was pretty wide open," is completely inaccurate.
There is another weekly LGBT publication in Nashville, Xenogeny, and it provides much of the same "news" and entertainment content provided by CSFP. Furthermore, Out & About Newspaper maintains a website that receives more than 10,000 unique visitors a month where breaking news and up-to-the minute news are posted.
Jerry Jones, publisher, Out & About Newspaper (Nashville, Tenn.)
****** ON THE WEB. At the Press Pass Q website - www.PressPassQ.com - you'll find back issues and subscription information. Also, at the Q Syndicate website - www.qsyndicate.com - you'll find up-to-date information on the 15 columns and features we distribute to gay and lesbian media: A Couple of Guys, Bitter Girl, Book Marks, Crossword Puzzles, Deep Inside Hollywood, Editorial Cartoons, Lesbian Notions, Now Playing, On Q, Out of Town, Past Out, Q Scopes, Sex Talk, Sports Complex, and Word Searches. For information about subscribing to Q Syndicate content, write to email@example.com or call 908-232-5974.
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FRED KUHR is editor at large of In Newsweekly, New England’s largest gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender newspaper.
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