Boston’s Bay Windows launches direct appeal to readers for financial support
by Chuck Colbert
It’s a challenge for any community newspaper these days — how to continue reaching loyal readers at a time when the dynamics of how publications raise revenue are changing.
In that light, Boston-based Bay Windows is trying a new strategy — a direct appeal to readers for financial contributions.
“We are not closing. We are not going out of business,” said co-publisher Sue O’Connell during a recent telephone interview. “But we need to let the community know, in this case the LGBT community, that if you want news about your community, you have to be invested in it.”
For a month now, O’Connell and co-publisher Jeff Coakley have been making their case in the weekly print issue, on the publication’s website, and through social media.
Their appeal cuts to the chase: “We request your financial support. We believe a viable model to bring the revenue needed to improve Bay Windows is a mix of advertising revenue and voluntary financial contributions from you, our readers. Bay Windows turns 31 this year. Will you pledge your support for the upcoming year by contributing funds? Your contribution will help us keep the website and paper free and improve our coverage.”
So far, contributions have ranged from one dollar to $1,000. “Our first contribution was $25, and our second was $1,000,” said O’Connell. “We have a full range of people giving one dollar, five dollars up to $1,000 and everything in between.”
In reaching out to readers for support, Bay Windows is not using the public broadcasting model with a specific dollar amount goal to be reached by a certain date, O’Connell explained.
Rather, the co-publishers plan to push the appeal four times a year. “But every day and every week we will have ads in the paper and on the web,” said O’Connell.
The fundraising appeal provides for a pay-as-you-read option. “At the bottom of every story on the web, there is an invitation to pay what you want,” said O’Connell while emphasizing, “This is not in any way, shape or form meant to replace advertising revenue and sponsorship. It’s just another way for folks to support the content.”
O’Connell said that she and Coakley have been thinking about a direct appeal to readers for several years. “We have been trying to figure out what are the best ways to add revenue streams to the paper,” she said.
Subscriptions to the paper were not an option, said O’Connell, because that revenue stream has always been a zero-sum game. “We make no money on them and do it for people who cannot pick up the paper.”
Increased distribution out into the city’s suburbs was also problematic. “It’s too expensive,” she said. (Bay Windows’ current print run is between 20,000 and 22,000.)
O’Connell said that unlike what some major daily outlets have done, she and Coakley did not want to erect a pay wall for the web site. “Our mission was and always should be for readers to be able to get the information for free.”
In all, there were two questions for Bay Windows. “How to reach an audience that is moving out of the city into the suburbs? And how do we grow revenue in a market, which besides the obvious economic challenges, includes a dwindling advertising market, for one reason or another, and the low-income opportunity on the web?” O’Connell explained. “Lots of people read our web site. A lot of people pick up the paper. How do we continue to make money to do that?”
Reader reaction to the appeal so far has been favorable. “We’ve only heard overwhelming support not only from our supporters and friends in the community, but also from readers we never had any contact with before,” said O’Connell.
“The general audience is better educated about the challenges that print publications have and what the value of print publications is,” she said. O’Connell was referring to the recent demise of the Boston Phoenix, a longtime alternative weekly.
How then does a weekly newspaper like Bay Windows make it in a changing market?
“There’s only one challenge,” said O’Connell. “I don’t mean to be simple about it. Readership is still there. The need is still there. I firmly believe that we could print more copies and they would get picked up. We print as many as we can afford to print, not as many as needed.
“Response to print ads is as good as it ever was. I hear that from advertisers who are in print and on the web. So the challenge is how to fight for the revenue in advertising when there are more opportunities for advertisers to send their message. We used to have our daily newspapers, community newspapers and the yellow pages. That’s all that we had to fight against. Now everything has a cost, and [advertising] can be everywhere.”
Dallas Voice publisher steps down after three decades
by Chuck Colbert
Robert Moore, publisher and co-founder of the Dallas Voice, has stepped down after nearly 30 years. Moore has sold the publication’s parent company, Voice Publishing Company, Inc., which also produces Dallas Voice Yellow Pages and online product developer Digital Seltzer.
The buyers are Leo Cusimano and Terry Thompson, who currently serve as advertising director and promotions manager, respectively. Cusimano took over as publisher on April 1, with Thompson assuming the role of president.
The primary motivation in Moore’s retirement is travel, he said. “Friends who know me know that I love adventure travel,” Moore explained in the Dallas Voice. “I love to get off the beaten path. The world is a big place. While many people are satisfied to experience a little of it, I hunger to see as much as I can. In order to do that I need more personal time. I’m still young enough and fit enough that many of the things I’ve dreamed about doing I can do, but I cannot do those and at the same time give the attention to Voice Publishing that it deserves.”
Moore, 57, said he plans to remain involved with Voice Publishing as a consultant.
“I don’t feel like I’m saying goodbye to the Voice as an institution,” he said. “I don’t feel like I’m saying goodbye to the people who are running it, and I don’t feel like I’m saying goodbye to the community, because I still intend to be involved somewhat. What I am saying goodbye to is the daily operations.”
Reactions to the news of his retirement prompted praise for Moore’s contributions to LGBT media and the larger Dallas gay community.
“Robert Moore is one of those rare, and too often unsung heroes in our community. His tenure at the Dallas Voice has made him the glue in that community, and he has spent the last three decades (and more) serving our unquenched appetite for news and knowledge,” said Bob Witeck, president and founder of Witeck Communications, a strategic public relations and marketing communications firm based in Washington, D.C. “It is good to know he’s just changing directions, and earning some rewards for the sizeable contributions he’s made.”
“Robert is one of the great LGBT publishers,” said Mark Segal, publisher of Philadelphia Gay News, “a professional from the start and a pioneer of local LGBT media. It has been a pleasure working with him to create better media for our community.”
“Robert has always been a focused, professional voice of reason in the landscape of gay media,” said Tracy Baim, publisher and executive editor of Chicago’s Windy City Times. “Those involved in this niche have tended to be large personalities that often clashed with one another. But Robert always seems to be the calm in the middle of the storm. His voice will be missed in our gay media gatherings,”
Moore launched Dallas Voice in 1984, along with business partners Don Ritz and William Marberry. From the very beginning, the three men had definite views on what the publication would be.
“We did not intend to use this newspaper as our own personal soapbox,” Moore explained in a chapter devoted to the Dallas Voice in Tracy Baim’s new book “Gay Press, Gay Power: The Growth of LGBT Community Newspapers in America.” Moore also said the publishers wanted the newspaper to speak for the community and for the community to speak through it. “We believed it was important that the journalism we did was straightforward, and that it was not advocacy journalism.”
They wanted the publication to be a successful business, too, said Moore.
In the book, the retiring publisher also discussed his philosophy of management.
“I want to treat people fairly,” Moore explained. “I feel like I allow people the freedom to do their work without interference or intense oversight. I’m no micro-manager. I believe my role here is to help this staff be successful. I don’t get involved in the issues of a department unless there is a moral, ethical or legal decision to be made. If you are working hard and are committed and you get your work done, then you are going to be successful here. And people like that.”
Moore voiced confidence in both Cusimano and Thompson and the future of Voice Publishing.
“As long as there is an LGBT community here that wants to be a community, there will still be a role for LGBT media,” Moore said in Dallas Voice. “One of the reasons for me leaving now is because I have such confidence in Leo [Cusimano] and Terry [Thompson]. They know that media in general is changing. They have new ideas.”
For his part, Cusimano told Dallas Voice, “I have a passion for this business, for this company. Publishing is in my veins. I believe it is vitally important that our community have a media source for in-depth, comprehensive LGBT news and lifestyle information — particularly local coverage.”
Cusimano, who has worked at Voice Publishing for more than 20 years, also said that Chad Mantooth, currently advertising account manager, will become associate advertising director.
Thompson, who has been with the company for 10 years, expressed confidence for the future. “I think our greatest asset is our team of co-workers here in the Dallas Voice family. We will miss Robert and his steady hand at the helm,” he told Dallas Voice. “At its heart, Dallas Voice remains what he built it to be, a trusted and strong voice in our community. Every organization grows and changes, and we are no exception. This is a positive and well-planned transition. I look forward to realizing our potential as we guide Dallas Voice into its third decade.”
Toronto’s Fab ceases publication after nearly 20 years
by Joe Siegel
Fab magazine, Toronto’s biweekly gay lifestyle and nightlife magazine, is ending its publication after nearly 20 years.
Fab publisher Pink Triangle Press (PTP) made the announcement on March 12.
Publisher Brandon Matheson explained the difficult decision was purely financial and is part of a larger restructuring plan for PTP. The company will continue to publish Xtra, the company’s tabloid LGBT weekly.
“The first issue of Toronto’s little gay-party-animal diary came out Pride weekend 1994, and it has been a relentless pop-culture beast ever since,” Fab editor Phil Villeneuve wrote on the magazine’s website. “Aimed knowingly and directly at a gay male audience, Fab has been on the streets of this fine city for 19 years, covering everything from politics, to social issues, to underwear trends, to fascinating new lube flavours.”
Ten staffers will lose their job as a result of the closure. Sixty-four full-time staff will remain at PTP. The company also announced the pending sale of HARDtv and recently sold its shares in OUTtv, two national gay cable TV outlets.
“We are not immune from the changing and challenging media landscape,” Matheson noted. “Advertising revenue has been dropping in recent years for all media, including us. It’s important to stress for readers that some of the content that they’re used to seeing in Fab is not necessarily going to disappear. It’s going to show up in other channels.”
Later this year, PTP will launch a new website called Daily Xtra (dailyxtra.com), which will replace xtra.ca, and expand its breadth of content.
Since Villeneuve took over as editor in 2012, “the glossy magazine has undergone a dramatic redesign and has grown to better reflect the playful and cheeky side of Toronto’s gay scene,” wrote Andrea Houston in Xtra.
Words of condolence came from readers on social media following the announcement.
Fab’s final issue will be published on April 24. Villeneuve promises the final edition will be a tribute to what he dubs “Xtra’s little sloppy and drunk party-girl sister who just wants to talk about underwear and shoes. It’s such a different voice from Xtra, and we need that voice. Fab is about the silly, fun things that we all really need sometimes.”
Fab was first launched in 1994 to compete with Xtra, according to PTP executive director Ken Popert. PTP purchased it in 2008.
“Over the years there were dozens of magazines launched to compete with Xtra, but Fab was the only one that marched to its own drum and danced to its own tune,” Popert said. “It didn’t define itself as ‘not Xtra.’ That was a mistake the others had made. I think it’s had a good run under our management, and we were true to our intention to let it have its own voice, and certainly, the last year it has turned into a remarkable publication. That’s why it hurts like hell to give that up. We have been trying not to do this for about a year.”
PTP is certainly not alone. Toronto dailies have recently enforced pay walls while announcing sweeping layoffs and plans to outsource key editorial departments. “There are an awful lot of forces conspiring against print right now,” Popert said.
On a more encouraging note, Matheson points out that Xtra and Fab are no longer the only Toronto publications where readers will see advertisements featuring gay and lesbian couples.
“Everything has changed,” Matheson said. “We have also seen societal change, which is part of our own success. You can pick up a paper like [commuter newspaper] Metro or [alternative weekly] Now and see some gay-targeted advertising, when 10 to 15 years ago, you didn’t see that.”
Matheson added that PTP will continue to evolve to ensure long-term viability. “We are in the process of turning a very big ship around, going from a purely print mentality to a web-first company.”
Just Out Portland closes its doors — again
by Phil Reese
Despite an ambitious relaunch in early 2012, Just Out Portland’s publishers announced the paper’s second demise through the publication’s Facebook page in late February.
Jonathan Kipp and Eddie Glenn posted the statement on February 26, thanking their contributors, readers and advertisers who had supported the project during its brief nine-month run.
“We all knew it was a tall order to bring Just Out back after its abrupt closure in 2011, but we all believed it was possible and important,” Kipp and Glenn wrote on their social network page. “When we took over Just Out, we wanted to approach the publication in a new way, to tell the stories of the amazing people in our LGBTQ community, to rise above negativity and pettiness. We believe we did that. In the process, we made good on advertising commitments that went unfulfilled when the old Just Out stopped publishing.”
Kipp did not return requests for comment from Press Pass Q. Editors of other Northwest LGBT publications also gave no comment.
In October, Press Pass Q reported the return of Just Out Portland along with an interview with Kipp — who had previously written for Just Out Portland in the 1990s — where he expressed excitement at the possibilities ahead for the paper (“Oregon’s Just Out Portland returns under ownership of former reporter,” http://www.presspassq.com/detail.cfm?id=131#news). Kipp said he and a staff of five including Glenn, editor in chief Alley Hector, art director Horace Long, and sales manager Roy Melani worked full-time day jobs outside of their work with Just Out, and believed the team treated the resurrection as a labor of love.
“The bottom line is we’re investing in the publication instead of the infrastructure,” Kipp said in October. The team wanted to provide better value to advertisers by keeping overhead low — by not investing in office space and information technology — at the publication. “A lot of publications, that’s what’s sinking them — the overhead. Its not the printing, it’s the big staff and the office space.”
Kipp and Glenn had hoped to save the storied publication when long-time publisher Marty Davis announced in late 2011 that she was no longer able to keep the doors open. By June, Kipp and Glenn had formed their core team and reimagined the longtime tabloid newsprint publication as a monthly color glossy magazine that put a greater focus on “individuals,” according to Kipp.
Following the December 2011 announcement of the demise of Just Out, however, another Portland area publisher, Melanie Davis, publisher of El Hispanic News, jumped into the Portland LGBT print arena. In February of 2012, she and editor in chief Julie Cortez launched PQ Monthly, which maintained a newsprint publication style (see story below).
As of publication, the Just Out website continued to be live, but has not been updated since early February. The Valentine’s Day issue was the magazine’s final print edition.
The end of publication of Just Out comes in the year that the title would have celebrated its 30th anniversary.
Oregon’s PQ Monthly celebrates its first year
by Phil Reese
When Portland’s Just Out ceased publication in December 2011, out lesbian publisher and owner of El Hispanic News, Melanie Davis, said that business leaders and community members approached her about using her resources to keep an LGBT publication alive in diverse Portland.
The result was a brand new monthly newspaper for the local LGBT community called PQ Monthly, which celebrated one year in print on February 21.
“It was a very quick and sudden thing. I think she pitched the idea in mid-December, and we had our first issue out by February,” Julie Cortez, editor in chief of PQ Monthly and El Hispanic News, told Press Pass Q.
The 32-year-strong local El Hispanic News moved to a monthly publication cycle in 2009 and became involved in LGBT publishing soon after when the paper partnered with Pride Northwest in 2010 to produce the annual Pride Guide. Beyond the guide, however, Davis and her team added an insert component for other local multicultural media outlets as a communications piece, “to better understand the LGBTQ community,” according to Davis.
“For two years we had that contract, and it went extremely well,” Davis said. “It was well received not only by the LGBTQ community, but the diverse publications as well, and their leaders.”
The Pride Guide won major awards two years in a row from the National Association of Hispanic Publications, and Davis knew she was on to something. When the community asked, Davis stepped up with a publication unlike any other in a city that embraces the different and unique.
“Our mission is to ensure that every letter and every color is represented,” Davis said, noting the publication takes pains not to “tokenize” or “ghettoize” any component of the community, ensuring a diversity in representation at all times, and even assuring that diversity is reflected in her staff. “We share the stories of our everyday people who are creating the ripple effect of change, from local DJs who are trans identified to those living in our mainstream black community who are queer identified.”
For Cortez, the “every color” portion of the mission statement not only refers to the LGBT community’s flag, but different cultural groups that intersect with the queer community.
“There isn’t one monolithic identity that represents the LGBT community, or one perspective,” Cortez says. “Trying to represent the beauty and complexity and growth and change that’s been happening in the LGBT community, especially now, as ideas are expanding … about gender, about sexuality, about identity. We’ve challenged our readers to think beyond what’s been considered the norm,” Davis said, which she believes fits well in Portland’s culture, where many social movements coalesce and learn from one another.
“It’s a comfortable place to live,” Cortez said about Portland, where she originally moved for college in 1997. “It’s not to formal or too uptight. It’s not too big, but it’s not too small.”
People — especially LGBT people — are drawn to Portland, not just for its rivers and mountains, but for its mix of high and hip culture, outstanding arts scene, and the presence of strong social movements.
Because Davis and Cortez — and much of the staff — are balancing two monthly publications, the print dates are staggered, with El Hispanic News going to press on the first Thursday of each month, and PQ Monthly the third. Both publications also deliver new content online, daily.
“It’s a challenge, but its a good mind-bending, mind-expanding challenge,” said Cortez about creating both publications every month. “Each month we pick a loose theme for the publication — for example [January] was ‘turn the page’ — and we try to examine it.”
PQ Monthly hosts a press party every month to mark the publication hitting newsstands, where locals are invited to gather, meet, mingle and pick up a copy of the latest issue, and to celebrate one year, February’s was expanded and moved to City Hall with an after-party at a local dance club.
Ohio LGBT paper pays tribute to shuttered alternative weekly
by Joe Siegel
Outlook, an LGBT monthly newspaper serving Columbus, Ohio, recently paid tribute to a now defunct alternative weekly paper, The Other Paper. The Other Paper’s writers and editors were asked to share their favorite stories, funniest memories, and “thoughts about what Columbus will miss when it’s gone.”
The Other Paper ceased publication on January 31 after 23 years. The paper was owned by the Dispatch Printing company.
According to Dan Eaton, a writer for Columbus Business First, “The company already had the similar weekly Columbus Alive in its portfolio when it acquired The Other Paper in the 2011 purchase of American Community Newspapers’ Columbus publications. This is the second print division to go away since the American Community Newspapers purchase by the parent of the [daily] Columbus Dispatch. The company consolidated the Suburban News chain of suburban weekly newspapers last year with its ThisWeek Community Newspapers division.”
The acquisition also included Columbus Monthly and Columbus CEO magazines and several specialty publications that continue to operate.
In a January 30 column featured on Outlook’s website, Editor Bob Vitale said The Other Paper “offered readers a real alternative: solid, hard-hitting news with a different, slightly skewed perspective. It made Columbus feel a little less buttoned-down, a little more cutting edge and a lot less like the place where police were known to ticket jaywalkers.”
Vitale said it was the circumstances of The Other Paper’s demise which motivated him to praise the publication.
“One of The Other Paper’s staples was calling out the Dispatch on its coverage of issues in which its ownership was heavily involved behind the scenes,” Vitale said. “For a lot of people, the weekly died when it was bought up, and its death now is just a formality.”
“I thought the owners were unlikely to talk much about The Other Paper’s history and what Columbus will miss with its demise, so I thought I would give people a forum to talk about it,” Vitale noted. “We’re one of two local publications left in Columbus that are not owned by The Dispatch Printing Company.”
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