Interview with Co-Publishers Russ White and Garrett Pattiani
by Joe Siegel
Geographic coverage area: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York and Ohio
Year founded: 2017 (online only)
PPQ: What feature or features of QLife have been the most popular with readers?
Editor Russ White: From our website, our RuPaul’s Drag Race leaderboard is our most popular feature, followed by our interviews with Andrew Christian and Willam. We’ve recently partnered with Clexacon (an annual media and entertainment convention for the female LGBTQ community and its allies) to increase our lesbian audience, and their article in September performed very well. On social media, our new web series “The Morning After” does exceptionally well. We did TMA [Media] for RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9 and had an incredible reach and viewership each week and we just kicked off TMA for “Will & Grace.”
PPQ: Who came up with the name and what is the inspiration for it?
Publisher Garrett Pattiani: QLife was inspired from our former name QVegas. The QVegas brand served Las Vegas for nearly 12 years. We originally were going to launch QLife as a reader-rewards program like casinos, hotels and airlines have, but with the bankruptcy of Frontiers (in Los Angeles), Next (in New York) and Agenda (in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) in October 2015, we were able to make quick adjustments and instead decided to launch QLife as the publication name in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and New York. Without the burden of a print bill and the associated distribution costs, we were agile enough to make the change quickly.
PPQ: What challenge has your publication had to overcome since its inception?
White: We’re in a constant state of challenge, mostly from ourselves. We are building our own publishing platform and infrastructure, so adding new features to the site, scaling the infrastructure, all while curating and writing content, remains an ongoing challenge.
PPQ: What challenge or challenges is QLife facing now?
Pattiani: We are invisible to national advertisers, especially pharma. For over five years, the Las Vegas market had not seen any advertising for HIV/AIDS medication, including PrEP. Smaller print competitors in Las Vegas are just now seeing PrEP advertising, and larger print competitors in Los Angeles and New York receive most of the national advertising that Frontiers and Next once had. Most LGBTQ publications could not survive without a pharma ad, and for our hometown of Vegas to have gone so long without, we have to wonder what could have been done to affect our current infection rate of one per day were our community not neglected for so long by pharma. As an all-digital publication, the current revenue model of ad networks and programmatic buys isn’t enough for niche publications to stay afloat on the pennies per click model, so a direct sales model is the only one that works — those are especially difficult for national ad buys.
PPQ: How has QLife changed since it was first launched?
Pattiani: Most recently we added Ohio as our first statewide publication and added our first directory product for Las Vegas. We are also partnering with the local Las Vegas LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Lambda Business Association, to provide their online directory. In fact, at the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) conference here in Las Vegas in August, we announced that we will provide free white-labeled online directories to any LGBT chamber in the U.S.
PPQ: What one change would you like to make?
Pattiani: We are exploring how to provide print distribution that scales as we expand into other markets. While all-digital provides us many freedoms, a low-cost print product would allow us a little more traction in hybrid advertising and provide tactical brand marketing for QLife. We are looking at combining on-demand printing and micro distribution models with our publishing platform to keep costs manageable and augment our digital readership.
PPQ: What has been the biggest news story or stories QLife has covered?
Pattiani: QLife is more “life”style and entertainment. “Life” is right there in the name, so we don’t do a lot of news. Our Ricky Martin video interview was really cool, though. We were the only non-broadcast, and the only LGBT media, granted access to Ricky for a face-to-face interview.
PPQ: On the Kinsey Scale of 0-6 [exclusively straight to totally gay], how gay is your publication?
White: We’re pretty gay. Currently, our numbers appear to be 80 percent LGBTQ+ and 20 percent heteronormative. In that breakdown though, 70 percent of the 80 percent is gay male, 10 percent lesbian, and the remaining 20 percent spread across the BTQ+. Of our 20 percent straight audience, the majority are women.
PPQ: Do you see yourself as an “activist journalist”? If so, in what way?
Pattiani: No, though we are not afraid to expose issues within the communities we serve. The respect that we have earned from our corporate partners and the non-profts we sponsor in Las Vegas allows us to intercede when issues arise and solve problems before they escalate. As we grow roots in our other communities, we’ll continue to build trust and advocacy there, too.