by Mark Segal -
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Gay News
The king of LGBT media is your local LGBT publication. Just like the one you're reading right now.
That might come as a surprise to those who think that websites are where all the traffic is. This is not, by any means, a negative statement on LGBT blogs. They are fun, informative, and some provide a good service.
But here are the facts, and this is where reality hits the road: Most of the blogs, like local LGBT newspapers, were started with a purpose - some political, some fun, and some to further a viewpoint. But few were started with actual journalists or writing professionals, and still fewer with media business savvy.
They operate with very little expenses and very few employees. You would think that with low overhead and few salaries to pay, they'd make enough money to survive and thrive. But many of them keep their material fresh with volunteers or by pumping the comments section.
The real problem is that, with little staff and volunteers, what they generate for the most part are the same stories being run by most other websites. They might have a different angle, but it's still the same story. The other problem is lack of sales to allow them the time to develop in a changing business environment. It's not easy to have a business plan when your platform is constantly changing.
But you cannot underestimate the impact of a lack of professional standards, which can lead to legal problems. This is not only a problem for websites: It was also a contributing factor in the demise of Window Media, the former parent company of Washington Blade and HX magazine.
The publication you are reading now, along with Bay Area Reporter in San Francisco, OutFront Colorado, Dallas Voice, Georgia Voice, L.A.'s Frontiers, and a few others, all have something in common. We've been around long enough that our communities know and trust us and know what to expect from a professional publication. We are also a vibrant part of the community, something hard to become in a virtual world. All those publications mentioned have more than 10 full-time employees each, which adds to the local economy. Some of us have more full-time employees than the national blogs combined. Many of them are seasoned veterans. Additionally, local publications not only have a dedicated readership in print, they also have those materials on the web. Therefore, savvy advertisers know they can get the best of both worlds by advertising with their local publications, and that is what they continue to do. And national advertisers are learning that local Gay publications and their respective websites bring buyers to their doors.
This column comes as news breaks of the demise of Queerty (one of my favorite sites) and talk that two other sites of national renown are considering closing their portals. That continued evolution also has print attempting to find its niche on the web. The New York Times is trying one way while The Wall Street Journal tries another. Web media, LGBT or mainstream, is now the most competitive media there is, since literally thousands of sites are created each day. Here's a detail that few seem to realize: It's a competitive world out there, and the most competitive business environment is not print, but the web. There is no competition for local LGBT print media from the web. The web competes with itself.
Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation's most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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