by Chuck Colbert
Owen Phillips is one of Frontiers Media’s new owners and a business partner of Frontiers publisher Michael Turner. He spoke with Press Pass Q about Frontiers’ special supplement in the Los Angeles Times entitled, “What is Gay L. A.?” as well as Frontiers’ recent revamp.
Press Pass Q: What did Karen Ocamb find out regarding her essay questions, “Who really won the sexual revolution?” and “What do gays have that straight people want?”
Phillips: What it boils down to is that LGBTs fought for and won a truer, more expansive sexual freedom that makes the progress straight people got seem relatively minor.
PPQ: How did the special supplement to the L.A. Times come about?
Phillips: Because this was its first time doing such a supplement, the L.A. Times was seeking an editorial partner who could drive it with authenticity and care. Flip has been working closely with the Times on other successful projects for a long time and brought it to Michael Turner’s attention.
The editorial content was all created by Frontiers with an eye toward presenting Pride month to a mainstream audience — since the supplement would go to over 400,000 homes across L.A. County. Some who would read it would be LGBT and some wouldn’t. This is as opposed to our own magazine issue devoted to Pride, which was written for our core gay audience.
It was fun to turn this around a bit — to flip what we do from presenting the tastes and influence and achievements of our sophisticated gay audience for its own consumption, to presenting those same decidedly gay moments to the outside, largely straight world.
The L.A. Times and Flip were wonderful partners in this — trusting us with complete editorial control. As a business venture I can’t reveal specifics, but the advertising sold made the project profitable.
PPQ: What was your role in all of this?
Phillips: If you mean my role personally, I’ve been using my past experience at magazine startups and reboots to help the staff get all of their tremendous creativity and devotion out onto the page and onto the site.
It’s the same with this supplement, which many publishing companies might have farmed out, but we took to be a serious and worthy challenge. Our team worked their asses off to do this at the same time we were creating one of our biggest issues of the year, and planning several major events. I’m very proud of them.
PPQ: Tell readers about the revamped Frontiers?
Phillips: There are specific features we’ve added and changed in Frontiers, but the most important is just a mission to give this community the magazine it deserves. Why shouldn’t this incredibly influential and accomplished and vibrant world have a magazine as sharp and well made as any that come out of New York? Why should it settle for one that only shows a small portion of what gay life in L.A. is like when that life is now so varied and so rich?
We have added additional talent from the publishing industry to editor in chief Stephan Horbelt and creative director Ed Baker’s teams.
We’ve created a new lifestyle and fashion department called “Gay Agenda” that is particularly fun.
I’m especially proud of the news section, “Newsbox,” overseen by Karen Ocamb, which has breaking news and analysis, photos of the many LGBT galas and fundraisers in town, and the water cooler, which catches readers up on important news they may have missed.
We’re also engaging the community in a much more robust style — sponsoring and hosting events such as Outfest, restaurant openings, book signings, nights at the L.A. Opera and L.A. Philharmonic, and fun things like pool parties and Out at Universal as well.
I don’t think a good magazine is ever finished. And the website will very soon be revamped as well. This is just the first step in growth for the company. There will be news about our events division and expansion into other cities with lively gay communities soon.
PPQ: Any thing else you would like to say about Frontiers?
Phillips: One nervous blogger in West Hollywood keeps repeating something he misheard, and I do want to dispel that once and for all. Frontiers has no plans to become a “straight” magazine. We plan to make a magazine that is so good, and reflects on the richness of gay life so well that, naturally, everyone will want to read it. But our business plan and editorial mission are focused on the gay community.
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