Interview with Owner & Publisher Jerry Jones and Managing Digital Editor James Grady
by Joe Siegel
Year founded: 2002
Staff size and breakdown (writers, editors, designers, etc.): Two editors (print managing editor and digital managing editor), two designers, three salespeople, a variety of volunteer or contract photographers and writers.
Physical dimensions of publication: 8.5” x 11” glossy
Average page count: 40
Key demographics: 127,000 readers, print and online, with only a 12 percent overlap between the two. Our readership is about evenly split between men and women.
PPQ: What feature or features of Out & About Nashville have been the most popular with readers?
Jones: Anything that hints of controversy has always been popular with our readers. We have a monthly drag queen article that is very popular, and we are seeing an increase in popularity with our coverage of trans issues.
PPQ: Who came up with the name and what is the inspiration for it?
Jones: I came up with the name. I wanted something that was fun, related to the community, and was easy to remember.
PPQ: What challenge has your publication had to overcome since its inception?
Jones: We have and continue to face a lot of discrimination. We’ve come a long ways in 15 years, but it remains challenging. We’ve received threats, had our outdoor boxes defecated in. We’ve had many times where people will take hundreds of copies from a location and throw them away to prevent other people from getting the issue. We have seen an increase in these events over the past year.
PPQ: What challenge or challenges is Out & About Nashville facing now?
Jones: We continue to struggle to be visible to the pharmaceutical industry — Tennessee is ranked 16th in the nation (according to CDC statistics, and the South is ranked highest) with HIV infections, and yet we’ve only had two HIV pharma-related ads placed with us in the last year. Even less the year before. We have seen no PrEP advertising. We look at other markets and they are flooded with those types of ads. Even markets smaller than ours, and way lower on the CDC list. We are the only LGBT monthly magazine in the market, so what’s going on with the lack of attention in our market? It’s been a challenge and continues to be a challenge, not only from an HIV-related education standpoint, but also a financial standpoint.
PPQ: How has Out & About Nashville changed since it was first launched?
Jones: So much! We started as a monthly tabloid with a focus on hard news. We are now a full-fledged glossy magazine, and our news focus has shifted to our digital properties, and our monthly print edition is now more lifestyles and community focused.
PPQ: What one change would you like to make?
Jones: We’d like to hire more staff to spend time on video projects and some other digital ideas.
PPQ: What has been the biggest news story or stories Out & About Nashville has covered?
Grady: As far as biggest stories in terms of pure numbers, our stories about Stacey Campfield (an anti-LGBT former state senator), Men’s Social Club, the minister Robbie Gallaty, and Chris Carmack from the show “Nashville” have had the most impact in terms of readers reached. Many of these stories still show up as top performers years after hitting the web.
PPQ: On the Kinsey Scale of 0-6 (exclusively straight to totally gay), how gay is your publication?
Jones: It’s a 6. We often tell new staff members, if it’s not local and not gay, or doesn’t have gay ties, we aren’t going to run it.
PPQ: Do you see yourself as an ‘”activist journalist”? If so, in what way?
Jones: No. We try to cover things as fairly as we can and, unlike so many publications in the LGBT community, our origins are not activist related. We started as a way to provide a professional journalistic-based publication for our community.
PPQ: What’s the most surprising feedback you’ve received from a reader?
Grady: From a personal perspective, two different pieces of feedback really struck a chord with me. When I tried to write a nuanced piece arguing that criticism of a local minister’s words missed the mark and went overboard, even though I was still critical, I received a lot of hate mail from LGBT community members. On the other hand, I received a good bit of mail from members of his church acknowledging that we won’t agree but thanked me for offering a detailed reading of what he actually said.
The other piece of feedback that struck me was after a really short editorial that was kind of an afterthought: in that piece I talked about my identification as involving some degree of bisexuality. After that piece I received a few letters thanking me for being courageous — which I don’t think I was — and for being willing to represent bisexuality openly in a community that often treats it with mistrust. This was another eye-opener for me.
PPQ: What advice would you give to anyone who may want to launch their own GLBT publication?
Jones: Don’t do it if you think you’re going to make a lot of money. The competition is fierce for ad dollars, and the challenges to succeed are many. If you do decide to do it, be well funded and watch your cash flow. Look to see what’s not being done in a market and create a niche for yourself.