Thursday, October 16, 2014

TOP STORY: LGBT consumer research survey data released by Community Marketing Inc.

Data used by publishers and sales reps to increase ad sales
by Chuck Colbert

In August, Community Marketing Inc. (CMI), a gay-owned San Francisco-based consumer-research company, released its 8th annual LGBT community survey. It provides useful data for gay media publishers and their sales teams. That’s because, in addition to providing overall LGBT market-specific data, the survey also gives publication-specific data to participating gay media outlets.

“Community Marketing is helping to promote the gay and lesbian market,” said Todd Evans, president and chief executive officer of Rivendell Media, which publishes Press Pass Q. “Right now, the company is the only one doing that.”

Evans noted, “I think the real crisis in gay media is not so much digital.” Rather, “The news has waned on the gay ‘market,’ and it’s all about gay rights. Everything is about equal rights and that does not stimulate national ad sales. The only thing that stimulates national ad sales in LGBT media is information on the LGBT market. Gay rights and equal rights don’t stimulate anything outside of the wedding business, which, while important and does help local sales, does not much help gain the interest of Madison Avenue as there are very few big national advertisers in that arena.”

For all the information provided in CMI’s survey — which includes information on financial confidence and concerns, beverage consumption, real estate, LGBT terminology and communications, brand recognition, sports interaction and engagement, family dynamics, and news media interaction — perhaps the most important data is that of purchasing behavior.

In this section, CMI asked respondents about their purchases over the past year, as well as planned purchases over the coming year. The categories included tickets for performing arts (theatre and music for example), vacations of five or more nights, salon services or spa treatments, tickets to non-profit fundraisers ($100 or more), purchased or leased new automobiles, major new furniture purchases (over $500), major kitchen appliances (over $500), bathroom remodeling, kitchen remodeling, primary residences, and cosmetic enhancements (surgical or non-surgical).

As a point of comparison, past and planned purchases among these product categories tested for both 2013 and 2014 were nearly identical, a finding that David Paisley, CMI’s senior researcher director, noted during a recent webinar discussing the survey results. Among the categories, tickets for performing arts and vacation of five nights or more ranked the highest, first and second for both gay and bisexual men as well as lesbians and bisexual women. Salon services or spa treatments and tickets to non-profit fundraisers were next in purchases for both men and women.

The full survey report download is available at no charge by clicking on the “LGBT Research” menu tab at

“What we learn about consumer behavior from the survey is very important,” said Bob Witeck, president and founder of Witeck Communications. “Publishers would look at any trends in consumer needs, trying to understand where the advertising base is changing or not.”

Based in Washington, D.C., Witeck Communications specializes in strategic public relations and marketing communications for corporate and non-profit clients. Witeck Communications has no fiduciary responsibility or connection to CMI.

LGBT media consumption is also important, said Witeck. In fact, CMI survey data shows that LGBT media engagement is “generally stable, with digital media experiencing significant growth and print staying the same in readership.”

Another finding is that LGBTs of all ages visit websites and blogs that are LGBT community oriented. At the same time, older LGBTs are “far more engaged with LGBT print media than younger LGBTs.” Millennials are “voracious media consumers” and “significantly increasing their media consumption.”

The survey also found more than half of LGBTs used a mobile device to purchase an entertainment or travel product in the past year.

So then, how do publishers and their sales teams employ CMI’s survey data?

“We use the CMI demographic information on our readers and the results of the annual travel survey,” said Scott W. Wazlowski, vice president of advertising at San Francisco-based Bay Area Reporter, in email correspondence. (For nearly two decades, CMI has produced a yearly LGBT Tourism Survey.)

“We've found [the demographic info] very useful in speaking with confidence and conviction about our readers' habits and how marketing to them directly through print and online advertising is a cost-efficient means of reaching the Bay Area LGBT consumer,” he said.

CMI’s publication-specific data is also incorporated into BAR’s media kit. For example, “Bay Area Reporter’s readers are in their prime years of acquisition, making the audience an ideal target for real estate, home furnishings, automotive, travel,” among others categories.

BAR’s demographic information shows that its readership is 80 percent male, 15 percent female, and five percent transgender. In addition, nearly 50 percent of its readership is 35-54 years of age, with 28.2 percent aged 55-64 and 10.1 percent aged 18-34.

Income distribution spans a range. For example, 28.8 percent of BAR readers report household income $50,000-$74,999, with 10.2 percent reporting income of $75,000-$99,999, 15.9 percent reporting $100,000-$149,999, and 22.8 percent reporting $150,000 or more.

Pointing to a concrete example of the usefulness of BAR-specific data, Wazlowski said, “We used the information, specifically income levels and planned purchase statistics, for major vacations of five nights or more, to convince Celebrity Cruises to appear in our publication in 2013.” Also convincing, he said, was “63.3 percent of our readers indicated that they would be significantly or moderately influenced favorably to purchase a cruise from a brand that included LGBT outreach.”

Accordingly, Celebrity Cruises has become “a regular and frequent advertiser,” said Wazlowski.

CMI data is also important for a leading LGBT publication in Texas.

“One of the most valuable lessons you learn in marketing is knowing your target audience,” said publisher Leo Cusimano of Dallas Voice in an email. “If you understand your market, you can better utilize your resources; your resources are both time and money. At Dallas Voice we sell differently, we look at businesses’ marketing efforts and help them understand the value of identifying their target audience. Knowing where your customers shop, what they read, and the makeup of their profile, helps businesses spend their money on advertising more effectively and their time networking being productive.”

Both publishers and editors can benefit from CMI survey data.

“The CMI study is extremely valuable for us at Dallas Voice, to use for both advertising and editorial. In selling advertising you're basically selling a readership, the more you know about that readership the better you can sell. In editorial, the more you understand trends of your readers, the better you can present both relevant information and vehicles they search,” said Cusimano. “Our editorial team studies the CMI research to help grow our reach. For example, the research identified our male and female ratio. We would like to grow our lesbian readership, so our plan is to produce a Lesbian Issue.”

Like BAR, Dallas Voice finds CMI data useful in creating its media kit.

“Our advertising team utilizes the information from the CMI survey in our media kits,” said Cusimano. “We have an extensive document and our media kit that is titled ‘Our Marketing Influence, Readership at a Glance.’ This document identifies key areas that we sell from. If we are meeting with an auto dealership, we give them the auto demographics from the CMI research.”

In Michigan, Jan Stevenson, publisher of Detroit area-based Between the Lines (BTL), said her publication also finds CMI’s data invaluable.

Each year, “We look forward to the survey results,” she explained over the telephone. “As soon as we get it, we update our media kit.”

The reason, Stevenson said, “is one of the first questions potential advertisers ask is, ‘What are your demographics, who reads your paper?’ And because we have the CMI data, we’re able to say with some degree of certainty, what our readers look like.”

BTL readers, for example, are 54 percent male and 44 percent female. BTL readers’ average income is $86,000, with more than 25 percent reporting income greater than $100,000.

In addition, as a measure of customer loyalty, 94 percent of BTL readers said they prefer to shop at a gay-friendly business and that they are more likely to shop with businesses that advertise in the publication.

Stevenson said that BTL also uses CMI survey data for the publication’s special issues, which include a focus on pets, health, homes, cars, theatre and a wedding guide. “There are specific questions buried in the data asking, ‘Are you going to buy a car in the next year, do you own a pet, and how many pets are in your home?’ So we can look at that and see what our readers’ usage of products or anticipated products compared the general population and say our readers are more likely to own a pet.”

Data comparing LGBTs to the general market for pet ownership, said Stevenson, comes from various “pet websites that estimate and do breakdowns, looking at how many American households have dogs. If our numbers are higher than that, we make a big deal of it.”

CMI’s survey found overall that 41 percent of gay and bisexual men and 48 percent of lesbian and bisexual women care for dogs.

Automotive data is also good, she said, specifically information on domestic versus foreign car intended purchases. “That’s very important to us because no matter how you cut it, we are in Detroit and everyone works for auto companies.”

In automobile purchases, CMI found that while one brand did not dominate purchases, Ford, Honda and Toyota were the top three brands in the LGBT community.

In all, the benefits of CMI’s data for individual LGBT publications are three-fold, said Rivendell’s Evans, noting that participation in the survey is free. “They get their own reader demographics. They get facts and figures for sales leads. They are helping the whole gay market by stimulating sales and segments where it makes sense.

“Madison Avenue is all about independent fact and figures. And without Community Marketing doing these surveys, we would have to pay for our own. Many gay media outlets did for many years to stimulate the market and make news. In advertising, it’s is all about justifying ad-buying decisions.

“There is a business case for participating,” said Evans.

Volume 16
Issue 7

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

D.C.'s Metro Weekly marks 20th anniversary

by Chuck Colbert

A glossy LGBT newsmagazine based in the nation’s capital achieved a significant milestone earlier this year when Metro Weekly celebrated its 20th anniversary. To mark the occasion, staffers published a 112-page commemorative issue featuring a retrospective spotlight on the publication’s history, including 20 interviews, 20 features and 20 questions pertaining to the magazine.

The May 1 issue also contained two pieces looking back on the publication’s two decades worth of providing news, politics, opinion, arts and entertainment, and "Scene" photographs from events and venues. In fact, the “Scene” section has archived more than a 100,000 photos from Washington LGBT community events online.

In the 20th anniversary issue, here’s how founder, publisher and editor in chief Randy Shulman recalled the first issue of Metro Weekly:

“Running around frantically in my tiny apartment at the corner of 17th and T Streets, [I was] scrambling to get the very first issue of Metro Arts & Entertainment Weekly written and to the printer,” he wrote. “I don’t have clear, detailed memories of it, apart from recalling that pages were laid out in PageMaker on a monochrome IBM computer — floppy disks! — printed out on a cheap black and white laser printer, and then pasted onto templates through the aid of a hot-glue gun. The pages were then bound into a loose-leaf three-ring binder — ‘the book,’ as it came to be known — which was then raced to the printer by car and handed off, relay style, to the camera department. From there, I always said, ‘It’s in God’s hands.’ God, in this case, being the printing press, which would not break down and create a distribution delay. God forbid.”

Over the years, changes came, including the name change (from Metro Arts & Entertainment Weekly to Metro Weekly), as well as changes in format (to full glossy magazine in the last few years). 

And yet, Shulman said, the mission remained constant: “To create a magazine — and a website — that speaks to the LGBT community, locally and beyond, in a literate, interesting and, whenever possible, unique way,” he wrote. “A magazine that covers things that are more than just LGBT-oriented, because as LGBT people, we are interested in things beyond our own microcosm.”

For Shulman and Metro Weekly, the advance of LGBT rights and the changing landscape of LGBT equality played pivotal roles, featuring prominently in the publication’s coverage at the same time the media landscape transformed rapidly and significantly.

“The fight for equality has begat same-sex marriage, the end of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and a rise in our awareness and a fuller understanding of our transgender brothers and sisters,” he wrote. “These two decades have seen monumental advances in combating HIV/AIDS, though we’ve lost so many in that time and still have such a long way to go. And the view, from 1994 to 2014, has changed so dramatically that we routinely browse the world outside our all-too-often confining borders thanks to this little always-connected thing they call The Interwebs. These changes have been reflected in our pages, often through the words of the people who were working hard to implement them.”

During a telephone interview, Shulman added, “I’ve always put a prize on putting out a quality, creative, interesting, engaging publication. We are a unique magazine in the way that I think a magazine should read. I always joke that Metro Weekly is a gay version of The New Yorker.”

Shulman’s philosophy guides the magazine’s style. “There’s a Metro Weekly way to things, a Metro Weekly way to write articles, a Metro Weekly way to do Q&As,” he said. “We have a very specific way we do things, a very unique approach that is important to Metro Weekly’s history.”

For his part, Sean Bugg, who over the years served as both the magazine's editor and co-publisher, offered a first-person perspective.

“Twenty years ago when Metro Weekly first came off the press, it was a lot like me at the time: a little slapdash, bursting with energy and a bit naïve,” he wrote in the anniversary issue. “I mean all those things in a good way — it was slapdash because we had an idea for a magazine and simply decided to plow ahead. It was a moment when naiveté paid off because the young rush in where experience fears to tread.

“We went by our nickname ‘MW’ in those days, one of the many ways in which the magazine then is different than the magazine today. It was smaller then, designed for easy pick up in the days when our distribution was limited to bars, restaurants and a couple of retail stores. It was black and white with spot color — ‘spot color’ being a difficult concept to explain to a generation that grew up with home printers that output high-res rainbows in seconds flat.

“The magazine now goes by its given name and at a glance is a barely recognizable adult compared to its newsprint youth. Metro Weekly lives in a different package these days. And what lives in that package today is different from what popped into existence 20 years ago. As you’ll see when you page (or scroll!) through this issue, our scope has changed and our ambition has grown. But you can recognize us between the lines and behind the design of those first few years — the hunger for interesting stories, the commitment to excellent writing, the willingness to try new things and push the boundaries of what a gay publication could be.”

All in all, Bugg wrote, “A magazine is more than a stack of stapled paper or a hosted web domain. A magazine is an attitude toward and a passion for a particular realm — for Metro Weekly, that attitude and passion always has been for our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. That’s what I see when I look back on the amazing journey we’ve taken from the spring of 1994 to today. The package may have changed and the approach may have matured, but I’ll always recognize the passion on the page.”

During a telephone interview, Bugg said he was “very proud” of the staying power of the magazine that “went through a lot of evolutions. We have done things with a non-traditional attitude. That attitude and the focus on writing and stories that are interesting and entertaining,” he added, distinguish Metro Weekly and explain the role it plays in the nation’s capital and beyond.

At the end of 2013, Bugg left Metro Weekly and is now executive director of the Next Generation Leadership Foundation. He remains the magazine's editor emeritus and an occasional contributor. 

Metro Weekly publishes every Thursday with a circulation of 17,500.

Volume 16
Issue 6

Monday, September 29, 2014


(What’s happening at your publication? Let us know at

BAY AREA REPORTER, based in San Francisco, has moved its offices to the city’s upper Market area, at 44 Gough Street, Suite 204. Since last fall, BAR had been housed in the downtown offices of SF MEDIA COMPANY, parent of the SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER, SAN FRANCISCO BAY GUARDIAN and SF WEEKLY.

THE BILERICO PROJECT (BILERICO.COM) celebrated its 10th anniversary on Sept. 27, 2014.

JONATHAN BUGG is the new editorial director of DAVID ATLANTA.

COMPETE MAGAZINE, based in Phoenix, Ariz., has launched a Southern California edition called COMPETE SOCAL.

BRIAN DEWITT has retired from his position as associate editor of Cleveland, Ohio-based GAY PEOPLE’S CHRONICLE. He has been part of the newspaper’s staff since its founding in 1985.

GAY PEOPLE’S CHRONICLE, based in Cleveland, Ohio, entered its 30th year of publication with its July 11, 2014, issue.

THE LESBIAN NEWS, based in Torrance, Calif., entered its 40th year of publication with its August 2014 issue.

MULTIMEDIA PLATFORMS LLC, publisher of FLORIDA AGENDA and GUY MAGAZINE, has moved its corporate headquarters to Fort Lauderdale from Wilton Manors, Fla.


Staff at Rage Monthly
KARA J. PHILP is the new managing editor of Phoenix, Ariz.-based ECHO MAGAZINE.

QNOTES, based in Charlotte, N.C., held its first annual QList—Best of LGBT Charlotte Awards Reception on July 17, 2014.

RAGE MONTHLY, based in San Diego, Calif., was named Outstanding Publication for the fourth consecutive year by the Nicky Awards, one of the West Coast’s oldest LGBT community awards.

MEGAN RAPINOE, a midfielder for the Seattle Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League and a member of the U.S. women’s national team, was the guest editor of THE WASHINGTON BLADE’s second annual sports issue published on August 22, 2014.

WIRE MAGAZINE, based in Miami, Fla., has launched WIREMAG, its new branding strategy that will include its print, digital and online content.

Volume 16
Issue 6

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

TOP STORY: Diversity issues take center stage at LGBT Media Summit

NLGJA convention kicks off with discussion of trans coverage and inclusion
by Chuck Colbert

CHICAGO — More than 300 LGBT news industry professionals and allies attended the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association’s (NLGJA) annual convention and 10th LGBT Media Summit, a four-day gathering held this year August 21-24 at Chicago’s landmark Palmer House Hilton. The theme was “Breaking Barriers.”

During the main convention, attendees heard keynote speakers, panelists, and workshop leaders address a variety of topics, including diversity coverage of the LGBT community, the intersection of activism and religion, coming out in professional sports, and trends in social media.

A one-day summit focusing solely on LGBT media featured two plenary sessions, one on how to better cover transgender persons and issues and another on the future of journalism funding. Breakout sessions focused on HIV/AIDS coverage in LGBT media, the future of lesbian media, out athletes and sports reporting, African Americans in LGBT media, and the future of blogging, social media, and mobile reporting.

Windy City Times publisher and executive editor Tracy Baim, co-chair of the LGBT Media Summit, was pleased with the day’s proceedings.

“All the panelists brought their A game,” she said. “The transgender plenary panel kicked off the day fantastically. Also the funding plenary was really informative. I felt like the way foundations are now funding journalism was interesting for me to hear, how it has changed just in the last two years, what they fund — infrastructure versus projects. I didn’t realize those changes were happening. So throughout the day, I was surprised what I was learning even though I knew the panelists and read a lot about them in organizing the summit.”

Baim said that an overarching goal for the summit was to make it as diverse as possible. “I think a goal for the media summit next year would be even more diversity,” she said, suggesting “a whole track of transgender workshops. This year’s plenary only touched the tip of the iceberg.”

Transgender journalists panel

The opening plenary, “Transgender Journalists and Transgender Coverage in LGBT Media,” was moderated by Fiona Dawson and featured journalists Gretchen Rachel Blickensderfer, Christina Kahrl, Parker Molloy, and Andre Perez.

During the 90-minute discussion, panelists agreed generally that transgender media presentations might well have reached a “tipping point” in 2014 with Laverne Cox’s appearance on the June 9 cover of Time magazine. Cox is perhaps best known for her role in the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.”

Nonetheless, Chicago-based sports journalist Kahrl, who works for as an editor and writer, sounded a cautionary note.
LGBT Media Summit opening plenary panelists
(left to right) Parker Molloy, Gretchen Rachel Blickensderfer,
Andre Perez, Christina Kahrl, and moderator
Fiona Dawson (photo: Hal Baim)

“We are definitely at a critical moment in terms of trans visibility in both the media and in society at large,” she said. “But the question is whether society’s pivoting from this moment is going to be entirely positive. It’s not. Progress is not linear. It’s going to be a situation that we have seen time and time again, backlash, negative responses, negative coverage, [and] not just in mainstream media newsrooms, but also unfortunately in LGBT media newsrooms.”

On the positive side, Chicago-based Perez, facilitator at StoryCorps, pointed to Windy City Times and a “series of different transgender reporters” with “representation on the front page and middle pages and back page and throughout that publication. That’s not something I see in other kinds of media. We are at a moment of explosion of visibility, and I think that has good consequences, but I am not sure I can point to a lot of specific stories that are done right.”

For her part, Blickensderfer, an account manager and writer for Windy City Times, noted, “A lot of trans people are writing their own blogs” or “putting their stories on You Tube," or “self publishing. A lot of these are unedited and terribly honest.”

A transgender essayist and advocate from Chicago, Molloy added, “There is no one transgender narrative, and the media is still struggling to gather that.”

To improve coverage, she said, stories ought to move beyond “trans people talking about trans people and making money off of being trans.” While there is nothing wrong with that, Molloy explained, “You have trans lawyers, doctors, and teachers.”

Added Kahrl, “The notion that trans people have careers that anybody would want is an important message; and something that again both needs to be [communicated] so that people making hiring decisions understand that, yeah, I can hire trans people, trans people have talent. That’s a positive message that people need to hear more about and see more of as opposed to just trans people just talking about themselves and their own issues.”

A focus on transgender coverage at the media summit notwithstanding, a variety of diversity issues rolled over into the main convention when the opening panel tackled hits and misses in covering the LGBT community.

Cathy Renna, who moderated that session, said without a doubt, “The biggest issue for media — mainstream, LGBT media, and social media — is diversity. The issue is really about inclusion. Are we really looking at the way our community reflects the larger culture and our issues? There is no such thing as a gay issue or LGBT issue anymore. They are human rights issues [with] so many intersections, and we are missing so many stories. I think it was perfectly natural that everything we talked about at [the media summit] came up during the main convention discussion about diversity."

Renna is a senior executive vice president at Target Cue, LLC, a consultancy that specializes in providing public relations and marketing communications services to not-for-profit organizations seeking to reach highly-defined audiences.

Reactions and takeaway messages

Renna offered her thoughts on key takeaway messages from the LGBT Media Summit.

Even as “mainstream media continues to do a better, more sophisticated job covering LGBT issues,” she said, “the LGBT media still needs to be on the vanguard. The LGBT media continues to struggle financially because it is in a very competitive environment. As I said before, as coming from someone who is not a journalist, [the community] really needs to advocate and support LGBT media because it continues to be the first place to go to when you really need to know what’s going on and what issues are emerging.”

For Michelangelo Signorile, an important takeaway message is “that we have to keep growing and that we can’t think that we have achieved something and that it’s all done. I think there has been an idea all across the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender world, particularly with marriage equality, that we have arrived when in fact, no, there are a multitude of issues. It’s just that transforming, taking on a culture is a much bigger issue than getting rights.”

A host on Sirius XM Radio and editor-at-large for Huffington Post, Signorile recently completed a book, “It’s Not Over:  Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality,” to be published next spring by Houghton Mifflin.

Asked for his thoughts on the LGBT Media Summit, Signorile said what interested him most “was the changing landscape of the media and how younger people are coming to this changed landscape and really mastering a lot of these skills. ... A lot of those editors on the blogs and social media are younger. So how do we transform ... LGBT media in this era? Also, the issues are changing. How do we cover transgender issues in a way that really brings light to the subject rather than the heat and sensationalism, which we have seen in the past on gay issues, seen it change a bit, but not yet on transgender issues.”

Sarah Toce, founder and publisher of The Seattle Lesbian, said being “all in this together” was an important takeaway message.

“We are all doing this for the same reasons, but obviously we all have our various segments and why we are special at what we do,” she explained. “To come together at a conference like this and be able to share that knowledge is invaluable in getting to know better what LGBT media can do.”

Toce and Baim, along with Trish Bendix, a Los Angeles-based writer and managing editor of, led the panel discussion, “The Future of Lesbian Media,” during the summit.

One mainstream press reporter, Jeremy Fox of The Boston Globe, found the NLGJA gathering important for his work. “One of the great things about the LGBT Media Summit, and the conference more generally, is hearing so many voices that I don't usually get to hear while trying to serve a wider audience that may not have a good understanding of issues in the LGBT community or even know that there is not one monolithic community, but many smaller communities that recognize common struggles and try to support one another,” he said.

“The transgender panel in particular was a rare opportunity to hear thoughtful — and forceful — perspectives on how that community is covered and how transgender journalists navigate their worlds,” said Fox, vice president of NLGJA’s Boston chapter. “It's unusual to hear one trans person exploring those issues in public, so to hear four perspectives and to hear the panelists exchanging ideas and comparing experiences was enlightening. It got me thinking about how I can cover transgender issues for wider audiences in a way that respects those unique personal experiences and doesn't impose a one-size-fits-all narrative about what it means to be trans.”

A main takeaway for Mark King, an HIV/AIDS activist, educator, and blogger, was “simply the thrill of being in the company of other writers,” he said. “This can be an isolating profession, writing our best and then releasing it to the blogosphere, often relying only on trolls and contrarians for feedback. So, to spend time in person with other writers is a joy and a real inspiration to me. And, as somewhat of a niche writer who focuses primarily on gay men, HIV and addiction issues, it was enlightening to learn from the many workshops focusing on other important issues that I feel certain will find a place in my future work.”

King, who moderated a panel discussion on HIV/AIDS reporting, offered a critique of LGBT media’s coverage of the epidemic. “We, as LGBT media, are doing a disservice to our community by attributing the lack of in-depth HIV coverage on factors such as reader ‘fatigue,’” he said. “There are compelling, new stories to tell. HIV criminalization, the inanity of the PrEP ‘debate,’ and the slow but sure melding of HIV positive and negative status are remarkable and untold stories. In the absence of adequate coverage, the vacuum is filled with misinformation and fear, which has plagued us since the earliest days of the AIDS epidemic, and frankly, we should know better.”

King received NLGJA’s award for excellence in blogging for “My Fabulous Disease.”

Next year, the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association celebrates its 25th anniversary. The convention is scheduled for Sept. 3-6 in San Francisco.

Windy City Times’ coverage of the media summit and main convention, which includes video clips of various panels, plenaries, and awards reception, is available at

Volume 16
Issue 6

SIDEBAR: LGBT media professionals Tracy Baim and Lisa Keen inducted into NLGJA Hall of Fame

by Chuck Colbert

CHICAGO — The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association added two more members of LGBT media to its Hall of Fame roster.

Tracy Baim (left) and Lisa Keen (photo: Hal Baim)
They are Tracy Baim, publisher and executive editor of Chicago’s Windy City Times, and veteran journalist Lisa Keen, founder and chief correspondent of Keen News Service, which specializes in national legal and political news and provides such content to LGBT news organizations from coast to coast.

Another 2014 inductee was Donna Cartwright, a veteran copy editor at the New York Times, also a longtime transgender LGBT and labor activist.

“This year’s selections are deeply rewarding,” said Bob Witeck, chair of the LGBT Journalists Hall of Fame Task Force. “All three share lifelong habits reporting our stories through solid journalism while inspiring us with their dedication to truth.”

NLGJA made its formal Hall of Fame inductions on Saturday evening, August 23, during the closing awards reception at the organization’s national convention in Chicago.

Baim and Keen were on hand to receive their respective honors.

An author, filmmaker, and historian, in addition to publisher and editor, Baim began her career at Gay Life newspaper in 1984, a month after graduating from Drake University. She co-founded Windy City Times in 1985 and Outlines newspaper in 1987. Lambda Publications, the parent company of Outlines, bought Windy City Times in 2000 and merged it with Outlines, and the parent company became Windy City Media Group.

NJGLA selected Tracy Baim in part for her lifelong passion for journalism and love of history, as well as her fierce human-rights advocacy. To that end, Baim has championed equality in battling sexism, racism and homophobia. For example, she received NLGJA’s 2014 first-place award for excellence in opinion/editorial for "The content of our character: Trayvon and us."

“NLGJA, while it did not originally embrace LGBT media as part of its mission, has really changed that in the past decade,” said Baim. “They have honored several LGBT media people, including Mark Segal of Philadelphia Gay News last year. So it was a great honor to be inducted into the NLGJA Hall of Fame this year alongside Lisa Keen and Donna Cartwright.

“What is even more wonderful is how many great journalists are in the Hall of Fame, including Jill Johnston, Randy Wicker, Michelangelo Signorile, Deb Price, Barbara Gittings and Kay Lahusen, Marlon Riggs and more. This makes me feel overwhelmed to be in the company of these giants of mainstream and LGBT media history.”

In brief remarks at the awards reception, Baim also voiced praise for the important role NLGJA has played in the LGBT rights struggle.

“The national LGBT community does not understand that NLGJA is probably one of the most important organizations that has effected change for our movement behind the scenes,” she said. “There are many other organizations that are political and activist, but NLGJA, behind the scenes, has influenced change immensely.”

For more than 35 years, Lisa Keen has been reporting news for LGBT audiences and is frequently considered the dean of gay political reporting in America. During her career, she served for 18 years as editor of one of the nation’s most respected gay publications, The Washington Blade. Keen was one of the first two reporters for a gay newspaper to be credentialed to cover the White House and Congress. She has covered U.S. Supreme Court cases since 1985 and is one of the only reporters to carefully analyze gay voting trends in presidential elections.

In addition, Keen won the Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association for her coverage of an anti-gay initiative in Colorado and the subsequent landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Romer v. Evans, as well as a Society of Professional Journalists award for her series of interviews — from diagnosis to death — with one of the first gay men to develop AIDS in the early 1980s. Keen is also co-author of :Strangers to the Law: Gay People on Trial,” published in 2000.

NLGJA selected Lisa Keen in part for her tireless commitment to reporting stories that matter most to LGBT people.

“I really appreciated the acknowledgement,” said Keen. “And it prompted me to think back on my own career and realize what a wild ride it has been — what wonderful opportunities, surreal moments, and even scary experiences I had. I think so many of us are so busy rushing from one breaking news story to the next one, we don't take much time to look back. And it's just a really good feeling to have others in the business stop you and say, 'Hey, you — you did good.'”

In brief remarks at the awards reception, Keen spoke of the role LGBT media has played over the decades. Back in the 1980s and ‘90s, she said, a gay newspaper, like the Washington Blade, “was critical to the community. It was a matter of life and death” during the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

“Things have changed,” she said. “Our mainstream daily newspapers cover gay stories even more than our gay community newspapers.”
Still, Keen said, “Gay newspapers are as vital to our community now as back then.”

“I am very proud to have been part of the gay media these past couple of decades or more,” she said in closing. “Wherever we end up in 10 years, I hope I am still at it and enjoying it as much as I do now.”

In 2005, NLGJA established the LGBT Journalists Hall of Fame to recognize journalists for their commitment, courage, and dedication to LGBT issues in the media. Since then, NLGJA has honored a total of 25 journalists in the LGBT community.

Volume 16
Issue 6

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Popular LGBT blog launches fundraising appeal

by Chuck Colbert

The editor in chief of Bilerico, one of the nation’s leading LGBT blogs with dozens of contributors, has sounded a warning bell, asking readers and fans for financial support. The hope is that loyal readers will step up to the plate.

“Bilerico doesn't make money. Running a site like this is a full-time job, but it doesn't pay like one,” wrote John M. Becker in an August 13 posting, his first-ever funding appeal for the blog. “The other day I crunched the numbers, factored in the site's average monthly ad revenue and the number of hours I put in, and discovered that I'm making less than if I worked a minimum wage job. Quite frankly, that's unsustainable, especially with the sky-high cost of living here in Washington, D.C.” 

As Bilerico’s founder and publisher, Bil Browning explained further in email correspondence, "Over the past 10 years, we've posted fundraising appeals a handful of times. Our readers have always done their best to help us out. They understand that running a blog is a lot of work for very little pay. Most of the larger LGBT blogs that pay a staff reasonably well are corporately owned with a big bank account behind them. There are only a handful of private blogs that make anything close to a full-time salary."

Over the year that Becker has been at the helm editing Bilerico, he said, the website’s traffic is “soaring,” its content is “up,” with “reader engagement … through the roof.”

There is little doubt that Becker enjoys his work. “I love Bilerico,” he wrote. “I want to keep bringing you the great content you enjoy every day, but I need to be able to pay the bills. Money is extremely tight right now — so tight, in fact, that I'm worried about making rent next month. So unless I'm able to turn this around ASAP, I'm going to have to find a new job and The Bilerico Project will have to close up shop for good.”

Accordingly, Becker finds himself at a “crossroads,” he said.

The Bilerico Project ( will celebrate 10th anniversary on September 25, 2014.

Websites comparable to Bilerico include The New Civil Rights Movement, Towleroad and Joe My God.

The name for Bilerico is a combination of its founder’s first name (Bil) and the first name of Browning’s college friend, Eric Muramatsu.

Altogether, “Bilerico is a type of project — an open-ended experiment in communication and cultural community building,” according to a website posting about its history and mission.

 A native of Indiana, Browning’s blog at first focused on LGBT issues in that state. In 2007, however, the blog took on LGBT political issues nationally, at the same time it embraced the full spectrum of LGBT life. Browning moved from his home state to a new base in Washington, D.C.

In addition to his editorial position at Bilerico, Becker has appeared as a guest commentator on major news and political shows, including ABC’s World News Tonight, Nightline, and Good Morning America; NBC’s Today Show; CNN's Newsroom; Fox’s Alan Colmes Show; MSNBC’s Ed Schultz Show and Live with Al Sharpton; and the Associated Press Television Network. A native of Wisconsin, Becker is also an accomplished classical musician. He holds a master of music degree in vocal performance.

Volume 16
Issue 5

Indiana-based publications up for sale

by Chuck Colbert

The largest LGBT newspaper in the Southern Midwest is for sale by its founding owner and publisher. In fact, both of Ted Fleischaker’s Indianapolis-based publications, The Word and Up Downtown, are on the market.

Fast approaching age 65 next May, Fleischaker said, “It’s time to retire. My partner and I want to move to Maine for a major change.”  

Another reason, he said, is that he is “ready not to meet a daily deadline. Even though we are a monthly paper, there’s a daily deadline or something to do every day, including weekends.”

A “motivated seller,” Fleischaker is asking $200,000 for a package deal for both publications, which are distributed monthly, with a combined print run of 18,500 on average. More than 3,000 readers download the publication at

While The Word is a gay and lesbian publication, Up Downtown ( is not, although it has some gay-related content.

Fleischaker began publishing The Word in 1991. “It took a lot of craziness and guts to start a gay paper in red-state Indiana back then,” he said. “If I had thought about it longer, I probably wouldn’t have done it.”

The paper, Fleischaker continued, “was named by my late mother who always said that no matter what we were talking about, I always had to have the last word, so I named it The Word for her; and she got to read it because I sent her a copy every month before she died in 1993.”

To get started, Fleischaker’s father gave him a $10,000 interest-free loan for five years. But within 90 days, “My dad got his money back. I have never had an issue of the paper that did not make money.”

During a wide-ranging telephone interview, Fleischaker discussed in some detail the two publications’ content and advertisers, as well as his formula for success in running a profitable business, which last year brought in $134,000.

“We are a regional newspaper,” he said. “And I emphasize news. We want to cover news, so we have all the features you find in daily newspapers.”

Accordingly, content runs the gamut from news and editorials to sports and theatre and the arts, Fleischaker said. The Word also has a horoscope, gossip, music, financial investment and medical columns. A lesbian writes a column aimed at the women’s community, and a psychologist pens a Q&A.

“We have all the same features that any small-town newspaper has to serve that community,” he explained, with The Word “serving the gay community.”

The Word does not shy away from making endorsements. And in editorials, Fleischaker said, “We talk about what is going on politically,” critiquing elected officials and others when necessary, “in all our [neighboring] states.”

Because “we are regional,” said Fleischaker, “I try to get [contributors] from each of the areas included in every issue. Nobody can say we are just Indianapolis.”

But all coverage is not local. “My ex, Anthony Ehlers, who’s a Hoosier, and his current partner Nicholas Giger, live in Toronto so they covered World Pride for us,” he said, but they did it with a local flavor. “The Word ran a two-page spread and included a page-one photo of a Fort Wayne contingent in the World Pride parade, so we combined international and local.”

In other coverage, a recent issue featured a front-page story on the advent of same-sex marriage in Indiana.

On the business side, Fleischaker points to The Word’s robust mix of mostly regional but also national advertisers. 

“I sell ads to the two biggest casinos in the state,” he said, along with advertising for car dealers, realtors, restaurants and even a donut shop. 

“It’s a little bit of everything,” said Fleischaker. Recently, a jeweler expressed interest in advertising. The reason: gay marriage. “The owner wants to be on the forefront of wedding rings when it does become and stay legal for us to wed.”

The Word’s big national advertising in pharmaceuticals comes from Rivendell, he said. (Rivendell also owns Press Pass Q.)

As one measure of how the gay community has changed, Fleischaker said, back in the day, “gay bars and bathhouses were 95 percent of the ads. Now it’s 20 percent or less.”

Still, The Word runs X-rated ads, he said, including those for a 900-phone line and Squirt, a gay sex cruising site. One or both local gay bathhouses have run ads, including “Club Indianapolis, which has a full-page ad every month and has never missed an issue in 23-plus years.”

The Word is distributed in seven states, including Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Iowa. That region, Fleischaker said, covers events, news and a lot more in the cities of Dayton, Columbus, Lexington, Louisville, Cincinnati, everywhere in Illinois except Chicago — and Indianapolis.

By comparison, Up Downtown covers happenings, events and new businesses in downtown Indianapolis, with a focus on the artsy neighborhoods of Fountain Square and Massachusetts Avenue.

The Word and Up Downtown are full-color tabloids, with the former publication averaging 64 pages per issue. The latter averages 32. Fleischaker is a full-time staffer. A bunch of freelance contributors provide written content and photographs.

August’s print run for The Word was 8,000 copies, with 8,500 for Up Downtown. 

The Word is highly visible on the streets of Indianapolis, Lexington, and Bloomington. For distribution, “We own 30 outdoor street boxes,” he said.
 Ivan Howard (left) and Ted Fleischaker,
publisher and owner of The Word
and Up Downtown.
Photo: courtesy of Fleischaker

The Word makes three times as much as Up Downtown, said Fleischaker, who is open to selling the publications separately.

But if The Word and Up Downtown are separated, the two owners “will have to work together to have a friendly divorce as many ads are sold as a group buy with a discount to an advertiser buying space in both — even though the content of the two ads can be different, with one catering to the gay and one the straight communities,” he said.

The best example was a downtown Indianapolis dry cleaner who ran a “pretty dry bring-your-clothes-here” ad in Up Downtown, but whose Word ad had a guy in just a thong with the message: “So, you forgot to take your clothes to the cleaners again?” and an ad for their pick-up and delivery service.

Whoever buys The Word, said Fleischaker, gets “an awesomely good website, thanks to my husband, Ivan Howard, who is a genius at Apple, so that means he designed it and he checks to make sure it’s current and that all the links work.”

Once downloaded, each issue, compatible with both iPhone, iPad and Android mobile devices, can be read even without an Internet connection.

What accounts for his success in running a profitable gay monthly? “I always tell folks the reason we survived when at least a half-dozen gay and lesbian newspapers here folded is because I don’t drink, but in truth it’s a bit of that and a lot of paying attention to business and having discipline with office hours,” Fleischaker said. “I grew up in my dad’s furniture store selling sofas from age 14 or so. If you can sell something, you can sell anything. If you learn how to talk to customers, you are going to make it.”

Interested buyers should contact Fleischaker directly at (317) 632-8840 or

Volume 16
Issue 5