PRESSING QUESTIONS: The Vital Voice of St. Louis

by Joe Siegel
Year founded: The Vital Voice got its start following the shuttering of the venerable Lesbian and Gay News Telegraph (founded in 1981) in January 2000.
Staff size and breakdown [writers, sales reps., etc.]: Staff of 10: 3 business directors, 2 sales reps, 4 writers, 1 photographer.
Physical dimensions of publication: 8.5” X 11” glossy.
Average page count: 64
Print run:  25,000 monthly 
Press Pass Q: What part of The Vital Voice is the most popular? 
CEO/Publisher Darin Slyman: Cover Features and profile stories. We focus on people doing amazing things in life. Some are politicians, but we do have more of a celebrity lineup over politicians. Also, smart LGBT business people who are making changes in their companies and/or heads of non-profits organization.
PPQ: Who came up with the name and what is the inspiration for it?

Slyman: Former Publisher Pam Schneider came up with the name Vital Voice. After The Lesbian and Gay News Telegraph shut down, she wanted a title that would be more open and appealing to a more mass audience. As she says, “After all, we are a vital voice!”
PPQ: What challenges are you facing right now?
Slyman: This year Vital Voice has expanded from just the St. Louis market to a statewide LGBT modern lifestyle publication and media company. Anytime a company goes through growth, there are always hurdles and challenges. However, with this expansion has also come great freedom. 
PPQ: How has The Vital Voice changed since it was first launched?
Slyman: When Vital Voice first launched, it was an old-style newspaper that really focused only on hardcore LGBT news. Back then it was needed, but with today’s digital market, one can get that news faster and [it] is more readily available. In 2009, I took over the company and changed its print publication focus to a more life and style aspect. Since the takeover,  I have taken the company from an old newspaper printing only 1,200 copies and only found in a small section of St. Louis to a statewide glossy magazine printing around 25,000 issues each month and distributed throughout the state. I have also taken the company from near bankruptcy to a $1.5 million company in less than five years. I credit these successes to always being open to change.
PPQ: What one change would you like to make?
Slyman: We at Vital Voice are really excited about the way things are going these days. The only change we’d like to make is to expand to more markets throughout the Midwest.
PPQ: On the Kinsey Scale of 0-6 [exclusively straight to totally gay], how gay is your publication?
Slyman: We would be considered about a 5. Yes, we are focused on the LGBT lifestyle, but we don’t forget our allies and have garnered a huge straight audience with this newer direction.
PPQ: Do you see yourself as an “activist journalist’? If so, in what way?
Slyman: No, by no means does Vital Voice consider itself an activist [publication]. We are a media company which focuses on the LGBT communities’ life and style. Again, [activism] is how the old gay media operated. That is not the mission of today or tomorrow. We leave the activism to the non-profit organizations to handle.

PPQ: Why do you think The Vital Voice has endured as long as it has?

Slyman: The only reason Vital Voice has been around so long is because of its strong leadership and those in charge not being afraid of evolving.
PPQ: What advice do you have for others working in LGBT media?
Slyman: Evolve in order to stay relevant. Stop looking at 1980s gay media as a standard of excellence. Yes, it had its time in the limelight, but alas you MUST evolve to be the future you want to be.

Volume 16
Issue 7

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October 26, 2014