by David Webb
Staff size and breakdown: chief operations officer, associate publisher, managing editor, graphic designer, website news editor, website director, news editor, sales and marketing director, four salespersons, community outreach director and bookkeeper, plus 10 stringers
Area of coverage: Tri County Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties
Key demographics: 25-54-year-old adults, college educated, professional; motto is “reaching people who care”
Print run: 10,000 weekly
Website address: www.sfgn.com
PPQ: When did you launch your publication, and what inspired you to do it?
Publisher Norm Kent: January of 2010. With the failure of the South Florida Blade and the collapse of Window Media, the community lacked a credible and conscientious newspaper.
PPQ: What, if anything, distinguishes your publication from other LGBT newspapers, magazines and online publications?
Kent: We are members of the Florida Press Association, media partners with CNN and the Sun-Sentinel, and belong to the Society of Professional Journalists. We are a credible and investigative newspaper reporting on the warts and wounds of the LGBT community, along with its achievements and accomplishments. We are independent from any and all community organizations and beholden to none, though we will publicize their deeds, good or bad.
PPQ: What were your greatest challenges in getting it up and running?
Kent: In a market where publications often come and go, the greatest challenge is developing a credible advertising base of community and business-based professionals who would support the paper on a weekly basis.
PPQ: Is it successful now and how do you gauge that?
Kent: You look at two years consecutive of being in the black, scores of letters to the editor, the mainstream media picking up your stories, reporters from CNN or FOX calling you for quotes, sources coming to you with leads for investigative pieces, advertisers accepting your rates because they know you represent your market, and you can gauge that you have a level of success, but damn, there is no such thing as letting up or slowing down. You give birth every week to a new child, and labor pains are always there.
PPQ: Have you experienced significant changes in publication size, and when did you see that occurring?
Kent: No, I try to balance it out because too big is too cumbersome and too much for the readers to absorb. You try to find a median size so you can stay within range and budget, though when you have a Pride issue, as we do in March and June, you go up in size. In March, at 104 pages, we were the largest LGBT weekly in America.
PPQ: Are you facing new challenges? If so, what are they?
Kent: You face challenges every week with distribution, staffing, production, overhead, costs, budgeting, and you have to balance that with editorial content, news, local, national. It is an ongoing process, and the news is always there, more for you to report on in an emerging gay community than sometimes you have room in the paper for. So the biggest change since our inception, your next question, is our online presence.
PPQ: How does the publication differ now from its original inception, and what is the most popular feature?
Kent: The emerging change is to drive our website and we are posting new original content daily, five or six stories, and the web presence is getting more hits in three days than our distribution of the newspaper weekly. We have to adapt to thousands of readers coming to us for content. When we featured a critical editorial on Adam Lambert, it drew so many of his fans to censure me, it knocked out our website for hours. So we have to constantly build that up as it takes over a commanding presence. As every publisher will tell you, monetizing the website is still a challenge.
PPQ: What’s the most surprising feedback you’ve received from a reader?
Kent: You can publish 84 pages, 100 articles, and 250,000 words with 75 ads, and someone will tell you that a comma was in the wrong place and how can you be so careless. And it may have simply been a graphic design error.
PPQ: What advice do you have for others working in LGBT media?
Kent: My main point is to drive home the view that you serve the community and its conscience, and you have to be conscientious, consistent, and credible, never supplicating yourself to the demands of advertisers. You are not there to kiss ass, but kick ass, and that sometimes means being controversial and committed to the truth. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said that if you go to a country and you open a newspaper and there is only good news, that means in that country a lot of good people are in jail. We are not here to provide protection for anyone, but professionalism to everyone. Create a good product, a strong advertising base that trusts you, and you will find a community that supports you.