by Joe Siegel
The Read, billed as Arkansas’ premier LGBT newspaper, has suspended publication.
The monthly newspaper was being produced by the Living Affected Corporation, a nonprofit based in North Little Rock. The organization was founded in 2008 “to promote empowerment and inclusion while decreasing health disparities through education and advocacy in marginalized communities.”
Its new Vision Statement reads: “We are the statewide organization that is informed and connected to change the social construct of the community we serve by improving basic human rights.”
The Read’s inaugural issue was published last May. Five thousand copies of each issue were being distributed statewide. Features included local and national news, entertainment, classifieds, gossip, LGBTQ health and event listings.
In a pitch to advertisers, The Read cited the U.S. Census Bureau’s suggestion that as many as 100,000 LGBT people live in Arkansas.
Managing Editor Cornelius Mabin said that although there was enormous support for The Read, it did not translate to advertising revenue.
“Finding advertisers has been extremely hard,” admitted Tonya Estell, editorial director for The Read. “Some people love the fact that it is newsprint, other people are telling us newsprint is a dying art form.”
Estell believes advertisers may be apprehensive about being a part of the state’s only LGBTQ publication.
“There were a few diehard advertisers at the beginning, but soon this too fell short as we did not have a committed salesperson and oftentimes I found myself attempting to reach out during social visits,” Mabin said.
The Read was also unable to garner interest from area businesses even as it offered an online edition. Mabin said he sought partnerships with online content providers to allow them a venue to advertise their products.
There were other difficulties as well.
“We were using an individual who started out with us, but moved to New England where they were trying to offer production assistance at their leisure, which often became delays, unrealized last minute edits and other production issues that became nightmarish,” Mabin explained. “Our staff size was only four people and we had limited experience with producing a monthly newspaper nor dealing with the crushing need to constantly market for advertisers and all that comes with that.”
Estell is hopeful The Read will be able to survive, but acknowledges a degree of uncertainty.
“We don’t know yet where our money is coming from,” Estell said. “[Living Affected Corporation] is a non-profit 501c3 organization and we run on grants and contracts, and right now we don’t have a grant or a contract to publish our newspaper.”
Mabin was feeling less optimistic when contacted by Press Pass Q.
“Currently we have experimented with a smaller in-house printed version that may fill the void of the larger tabloid version. However, from a financial standpoint, I have determined that the numbers don’t add to up to cover all the expenses needed to continue this venture.”
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