Wednesday, October 30, 2013

TRANSITIONS AND MILESTONES


(What’s happening at your publication? Let us know at editor@presspassq.com.)

COMMUNITY MARKETING INC., based is San Francisco, is holding its 14th Conference on LGBT Tourism & Hospitality in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Dec. 11-13, 2013. For more information, go to http://www.communitymarketinginc.com/education-and-conferences/international-conference-on-gay-lesbian-tourism/.

FRONTIERS MAGAZINE, based in Los Angeles, has partnered with the City of West Hollywood, the Tom of Finland Foundation, Visit West Hollywood, MOCA at the Pacific Design Center and the bars and clubs of West Hollywood for the third annual Go-Go Dancer Appreciation Day Festival and Competition on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013. Readers can vote for their favorite L.A. area go-go dancer at FrontiersLA.com/gogo2013.

MATT JAMIESON recently debuted his new pop culture column PULSE in St. Louis, Mo.-based VITAL VOICE.

CUAUHTÉMOC Q. KISH has stepped down as the theater writer for GAY SAN DIEGO.

NEXT MAGAZINE, based in New York, N.Y., entered its 21st year of publication with its June 28, 2013, issue.

OUT NORTH TEXAS is the new name of the DALLAS VOICE YELLOW PAGES. Rather than a yellow pages directory, the revamped publication will be an LGBT visitors guilde, a relocation resource and community directory in magazine format.

HANS PEDERSEN is the new film writer for ECHO MAGAZINE, based in Phoenix, Ariz. He will write the magazine’s AT THE BOX OFFICE movie preview column, which appears in each edition, and contribute other film features. Additionally, CAIT BRENNAN is the magazine’s new music writer, responsible for the CD reviews feature.

DAVID STEINBERG, former president of the NATIONAL LESBIAN AND GAY JOURNALISTS ASSOCITION (NLGJA), has been elected president of UNITY: JOURNALISTS FOR DIVERSITY, an umbrella organization for multiple minority journalists groups. In addition to NLGJA, UNITY includes the ASIAN AMERICAN JOURNALISTS ASSOCIATION and the NATIVE AMERICAN JOURNALISTS ASSOCIATION. On Oct. 22, the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF HISPANIC JOURNALISTS voted to leave UNITY. The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BLACK JOURNALISTS left UNITY two years ago.

Volume 15
Issue 7
TRANSITIONS AND MILESTONES

PRESSING QUESTIONS: Running a non-profit on a “shoestring”

Options of Providence, R.I.
by David Webb

Publisher: Options is a non-profit organization

Staff size and breakdown: We have a part-time managing director, an even more part-time production guy, and a distribution guy who works even less than the production guy. All the other jobs — writing, editing, ad management, bookkeeping, webmaster — are performed by volunteers.

Physical dimensions of publication: 8.5” x 11”

Average page count: 32

Area of coverage: Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts

Median age of readers: We’re not verified, so it would be just a guess, but we strive to reach as many as possible.

Print run: 6,000, printed 10 times/year

Website address: www.optionsri.org

*****

PPQ: When did you launch your publication, and what inspired you to do it?

Managing Director Kim Stowell: Options was launched in 1982, and not by me. It began as two sheets of legal paper run off on a copier and stapled together with hand-drawn illustrations at a time when the queer community did not have a voice. There were no legal protections in place, AIDS was entirely a gay issue, and people marched in the Pride March (it was a march, not a parade) with paper bags over their heads. The community was angry, and they needed a way to communicate. They needed a voice. Options provided that forum. 

PPQ: What is the story behind the name Options?

Stowell: An excellent question! I wish I knew the answer. It seems odd, in that our readership did not choose to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. There is no changing it now, but I’ll let you know if I ever find out the answer.

PPQ: What, if anything, distinguishes your publication from other LGBT newspapers, magazines and online publications, and how much competition is there in your area for LGBT-specific news and advertising?

Stowell: We are, as I mentioned earlier, non-profit, so we are not really in competition with anyone. But we do sell advertising, so we must stand out above the other local publications. More than anything, we are steadfast in our commitment to being all-LGBT and all local/regional. We don’t run gardening articles or restaurant reviews. Our rule is: If an article could run in a mainstream publication, then it is not an Options article. We are proud to have been in existence as long as we have — not too many others out there! — and I believe it is because of our editorial integrity. Our readers trust us, and that is worth its weight in gold.

PPQ: What were your greatest challenges in getting it up and running?

Stowell: The challenge has always been running on a shoestring — we try to offer rates that are affordable to the small businessperson — although currently our challenge is more about finding volunteers who are willing to make a commitment.

PPQ: Is it successful now and how do you gauge that?

Stowell: I suppose the inclination is to think of success as measured by the bottom line, although we have enjoyed steady success in terms of serving our readers well in every other way. And, after several very shaky years, we are growing financially, too. Our advertisers have changed somewhat — it used to be all gay business owners, but we are now attracting advertisers who are looking for ways to reach our desirable demographic. We are thrilled at our growth, but we will always be grateful to those advertisers who have been with us for, in some cases, 20 years or more.

PPQ: Have you experienced significant changes in publication size, and when did you see that occurring?

Stowell: We’ve certainly had our ups and downs. There was one month, several years ago, when all our advertisers agreed to be included in a list of sponsors instead of running their ads, so we could cut the pages down and print in black and white. It was meant to be a wake-up call to our community, and it worked. Another time, we needed help in the form of a few thousand dollars to keep our doors open. A friend ran a three-day online challenge, offering to deliver his special homemade cookies to anyone who contributed over a certain amount. Again, it worked. But we have never missed an issue, and things are looking rather bright on our financial horizon these days.

PPQ: Are you facing new challenges and what are they?

Stowell: It is sometimes tough for us to keep things operating while holding down “real” jobs, which we are all doing. Somehow it all gets done though, and that’s thanks to a handful of dedicated, talented folks who come through month after month. Looking ahead, we will have to make some decisions — increasing the number of pages, for example. Also, we have always mailed Options to our subscribers under cover of a plain envelope. This, almost everyone agrees, is not necessary anymore, but there are those for whom it is not safe to receive Options in the mail. I will probably lose some sleep over that.

PPQ: How does the publication differ now from its original inception, and what is the most popular feature?

Stowell: In some ways, Options is the same as it ever was. It’s still free, distributed at all the gay hangouts around the area, all local and all queer content, run by a small gang of crazies. But in other ways it has adapted with the times. The needs of our readers have changed — they don’t all live in the gay neighborhood, for example; they’re out in the suburbs raising families — but they still want to connect, to hear what is happening, and to catch up on the news, events and people of our community. Two features come to mind as most popular. The first is our calendar of events. It is as comprehensive as could be — our calendar editor prides herself on finding every last queer event in the area every month. The other is our Resources section, which has been a feature of the publication from the beginning. We list everything from welcoming houses of worship, youth organizations and support groups to gay bars and sports clubs. I doubt anyone looks at it every month, but it is always there if folks need it. I know it is a trusted resource for many service providers in the area too.

PPQ: What's the most surprising feedback you've received from a reader?

Stowell: I have heard several times that Options has saved someone’s life. That’s pretty meaningful! I spoke to someone recently who still has the first copy he ever picked up, from 15 years ago. Options often plays a big part in people’s coming out process. I’m also pleased to say that we hear regularly from incarcerated readers, who share their copy with other gay inmates — we are a real lifeline to those guys.

PPQ: What advice do you have for others working in the LGBT media?

Stowell: Don’t sell out. Figure out what you want to be and who you want to reach and then stick with it. Have standards. And have good, well-written articles with lots of photos.

Volume 15
Issue 7
PRESSING QUESTIONS

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

TOP STORY: Annual LGBT community survey provides useful data for both editors and publishers


by Chuck Colbert

A new survey of LGBT consumers, including many readers of LGBT publications, holds good news for publishers and editors alike.

One takeaway message is that gay media still matters.

Sixty-seven percent of gay men and 58 percent of lesbians, for example, said they viewed an LGBT web site or blog in the past week. That finding is in comparison to 57 percent of gay men and 46 percent of lesbians who report visiting mainstream portals.

Equally encouraging, while 55 percent of gay men and 46 percent of lesbians said they read mainstream general newspapers, 50 percent of gay men and 42 percent of lesbians also reported they read local LGBT publications.

Gay media, it seems, remains relevant and vital to the LGBT community.

And yet there are differences in LGBT media consumption, with gay men more likely than lesbians to use a variety of media, especially mobile apps, while lesbians are more likely than gay men to read LGBT email newsletters.

These findings — and a whole lot more — are part the recently released 7th Annual LGBT Community Survey  (http://www.communitymarketinginc.com/7th-annual-lgbt-community-survey/), conducted by gay-owned Community Marketing, Inc. (or CMI), an LGBT marketing research firm based in San Francisco. The report was released in August.

Last month, CMI’s president Tom Roth and senior research director David Paisley hosted a 45-minute webinar on the community survey for more than 200 participants.

Here are a few overall key findings.

•  While Facebook dominates in the LGBT media landscape, LGBT-specific web sites show notable growth in readership.

•  Starbucks holds first place among brands perceived to be most supportive of the LGBT community, with JC Penney, Target, Apple and Amazon rounding out the top five. At the same time, 75 percent of LGBTs are actively boycotting Chick-fil-A.

•  The term “LGBT” has strengthened its lead as the term of preference to describe the community.

• Nearly half of gay/bisexual men and lesbians/bisexual women make financial contributions to charities or non-profits, at least annually. However, transgender respondents are more likely to perform volunteer work.

•  Lesbians and bisexual women are far more likely (44 percent) to purchase spa services than gay or bisexual men (32 percent).

CMI’s annual report collected data from 10,000 self-identified gay and bisexual men, more than 4,000 lesbians and bisexual women, and more than 400 transgender people — all from the United States. Data from Canada is also available.

The survey, which took 15-20 minutes to complete, was conducted during May and June 2013.  CMI made it accessible through a wide range of venues including more than 200 LGBT web sites, LGBT publications, social media and the marketing firm’s partner organizations such as film festivals, community centers and business associations.

One of the most comprehensive surveys of LGBT consumers in terms of a large sample size, the annual report gives “voice to attitudes and preferences, all things that are in the marketplace that people want to know about,” including “behavioral data, attitudes” and how LGBTs “spend money,” said Bob Witeck over the telephone. Witeck is president and founder of Witeck Communications. Based in Washington, D.C., the firm is a strategic public relations and marketing communications firm for corporate and non-profit clients. Witeck Communications has no fiduciary responsibility or connection to CMI, Inc.

And yet, just as a similar survey taken from readers of African-American or Latino publications would not be used to generalize to those respective populations or communities at large, so the LGBT survey results are not representative of all LGBTs.

Nonetheless, the LGBT survey, explained Witeck, “is very important knowledge of the marketplace because it gives depth and context to LGBT consumer activities.”

In addition to basic demographic information, the report has information on purchasing motivations and behavior as well as political and social perspectives.

The 37-page report has five sections, coverings the topics of messaging and terminology, purchasing habits and brand involvement, LGBT community charitable involvement and civic engagement, media habits and consumption, and LGBT acceptance in sports.

The report comes at a time of significant progress in LGBT equality, with the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act earlier this summer.

Sure enough, publishers, editors, and marketing and sales professionals from LGBT media have every reason to encourage readers’ participation in the survey. While an overall report is available to the public at large for free, LGBT publications able to muster 200 responses receive their own customized report, which provides valuable information about readership demographics and consumer behavior — all-important information in connecting advertisers with readers.

Why are publishers, sales and marketing directors, and editors interested in a community survey? How is the information useful to them? 

“The reason why we do the community marketing survey is that we can provide independent demographic survey data to advertisers and potential advertisers,” said Rob Davis, publisher of New York City-based Metrosource. “It certainly assists all of us in the RFP [request for proposal] process, when we have demographic questions that we must answer.”  

A glossy lifestyle and entertainment magazine, Metrosource focuses on the modern metropolitan gay community. The publication has New York, Los Angeles and national editions.

In San Francisco, “Bay Area Reporter (BAR) always participates in Community Marketing’s annual survey, and we are grateful for the opportunity,” said publisher Michael Yamashita. “Reader demographics are an important source of information that many publications find too costly to afford alone. Of course, readers’ age, sex and income are always important statistics of interest for any publication and its advertisers. We use the report to identify which types of advertisers would be interested in engaging our readers and vice versa.”

“Participation in the survey is a no-brainer,” said Dan Calhoun, director of marketing and advertising for Philadelphia Gay News (PGN). “It gives us the opportunity to get specific demographic and spending data on our readership to better serve our community. 

Furthermore, “Participating in the survey annually allows us to analyze trends, both locally and nationally,” he said. “It’s also a good tool to allow us to set up measurable goals using the survey as a benchmark, then viewing the next survey to see if our efforts were effective and what changes need to be made to reach our goals.”

At the Dallas Voice, publisher Leo Cusimano said information from the survey is “fed into our printed media kits. Each member of our sales team has iPads with a Keynote (PowerPoint) program of our media kit. The new information can be easily fed into the program, with buying habits of our readers, particularly important.”

Recently, he explained, “We used the alcohol consumption habits from the CMI study to win new business.”

Over the years, Cusimano added, “These studies help us pair the interests of our readers with our advertisers and help us establish special sections.  Looking at trends in LGBT adoption rates, a few years ago, we created Family LIFE, a special section that focuses on LGBT families. This section was very successful in building revenue with clients in multiple issues.”

For his part, Peter Frycki, publisher of Trenton-based Out in Jersey, said that although there were no surprises in his publication’s demographics, “I was disappointed that our numbers among lesbians and lesbian couples had not increased since 2010. We’re going to be very concerned with including the transgender community and the lesbian community more and more in our story coverage and feature coverage. We know we have our work to do there.”

Information from the LGBT community survey is also helpful to editors.  

In fact, BAR spun a story out of the report entitled “LGBT survey results show Stoli has reason to worry about boycott” by assistant news editor Matthew Bajko.

“Matthew's story picked up on the fact that brands like Stoli vodka might have reason to worry as the survey showed LGBT consumers surveyed for the report overwhelmingly indicated they were staying away from Chick-fil-A due to its CEO's anti-gay statements, among other issues,” explained Cynthia Laird, the newspaper’s news editor.

The Stoli vodka brand has come under heavy criticism, with some LGBT activists calling for an outright boycott recently because of anti-gay legislation passed in Russia.

Laird also said BAR plans more stories on other aspects of the report and that “demographic information is interesting to us as we look at the LGBT community’s growth and what current trends are.”

For her part, PGN editor Jen Coletta said, “The information definitely will help inform our editorial content in the coming months. It will first encourage me to pay extra attention to make sure that we are adequately covering the issues and events pertinent to our current readers. Now that we have a better grasp of who our readers are, I am better able to prioritize coverage according to the types of stories that have a particular relevance to the majority of our readers. This information shows me the areas where we want to bring in more readers, and I will use that as a basis for launching new columns and regular features next year.” 

The editor and publisher at Boston-based The Rainbow Times (TRT), Nicole Lashomb, learned form the LGBT community survey that 25 percent of its readership is people of color, including anywhere from 15 percent to 25 percent who are Hispanic. TRT has Spanish-language content in every monthly print issue.

The people-of-color finding, said Lashomb, “means our mission and vision for the publication is not only succeeding for the mainstream LGBT community, but also for those marginalized within it. We also came to realize through this survey that nearly 80 percent of our readers do not regularly read another LGBT publication in New England.”

While its print edition is issued monthly, TRT boasts a robust web site. “We have the largest social media platform than any other publication in the [New England] region,” said publisher Gricel Ocasio. “Our web site is taking on a life of its own.” Accordingly, “[TRT] specific data allows us to bundle together the many ways potential clients can reach out community. Giving them more bang for their buck helps them to capitalize on the various facets of our readership.”

In all, nearly 90 LGBT publications, web and blog sites, and business organizations had enough responses to receive their own demographic information.

Todd Evans, president and chief executive officer of Rivendell Media, credits CMI’s Roth “for making this a win-win for everybody,” both advertisers and publishers. Evans was referring to the annual community survey report and the free LGBT-publication-specific demographics, given the 200 respondents requirement. “It’s a great business tool for us.”

That the survey is done “by an independent agency makes it acceptable to local and national advertisers,” Evans said. In some cases, however, “if advertisers don’t not have a recent survey, they won’t buy from a publication, especially the spirits and alcohol category.”

Still, high non-participation in the community survey concerns Evans. “When you look at how many (media properties) participated, it’s shocking how many did not," he said. 

"Here is a company that is providing a previously very expensive service at virtually no cost to the publication, and it is absolutely necessary for spirits advertising. So it seems very odd that publications would either choose not to participate or not to provide the necessary support to get enough responses for an individual report," Evans added. "However, I am still grateful for all those that did participate, for it does provide necessary information to help the LGBT market overall."

Volume 15
Issue 7
TOP STORY

SIDEBAR: CMI survey results help in understanding readers, reaching out to advertisers


by Chuck Colbert

Community Marketing Inc.’s annual LGBT community survey undoubtedly provides useful data for editors and publishers. Accordingly, Press Pass Q reached out to a dozen publishers, editors, and sales and marketing directors of gay media outlets to learn more about how the information will be used and just how helpful it is. Here is a sampling of more ways the outlet-specific demographic data assists LGBT media professionals in securing ad sales and determining editorial content.

“When I receive the survey results, I create two different Power Point presentations,” said Dan Calhoun, director of marketing and advertising for Philadelphia Gay News (PGN). “One Power Point is pulled information from the survey that would be of specific interest to our editorial team.”

That info, he said, prepares Calhoun to meet with PGN editor Jen Colleta to review the results. “Analyzing the demographic and spending patterns allows her to develop our 2014 editorial calendar,” Calhoun said.

Specifically, how is such data helpful?

“For example, this survey showed that we have higher male readership than female,” Calhoun explained. “Jen can then decide if she would like to cater content to our higher male readership, change content information to better attract female readers, both or neither.”

In his role at PGN, Calhoun wears two hats, one editorial and one marketing. “Putting on my sales and advertising hat,” he said, “the second Power Point pulls survey data that would be of interest to our sales team.  We can use survey data as a sales tool by giving advertisers specific information that would be of interest to them.

“For example, every year we have a pet issue. When the sales team is calling prospective advertisers for that issue, they can tell them one-third of our readers own a dog and another third of our readers have a cat. Divide our readership by those numbers, and we can tell the advertisers that 16,500 of our readers would be of specific interest in their business.”

Dallas Voice publisher Leo Cusimano said his publication uses CMI’s data “to look at a company's marketing efforts and make sure they are on target. If their marketing efforts are on target, the investment they make with us is more effective. In marketing, target audience is very important. We participate in the CMI community survey to gather more information on our target audience, our readership. The more we know about our readers, the better we are at reaching them. Our editorial staff's job is to have their finger on the pulse of our readership, and these studies help us analyze the market we serve.” 

Bay Area Reporter publisher Michael Yamashita said CMI’s survey is invaluable on two fronts. Without CMI’s survey results, “It would be challenging, to almost impossible, for us to quantify the current state of our community and our readers. Besides, the national LGBT community is made stronger by gathering statistics that combine our responses with those of other publications.”

Like Yamashita, Boston-based Rainbow Times editor Nicole Lashomb shares a similar viewpoint. “Being a part of this readership survey has provided us priceless information, not only for our advertisers, but readers alike. The information received is vast and really helps us understand what we are doing effectively, what could be improved upon and how best to reach the community we serve, be it digitally, in print or a combination of both. By understanding our readers, we are better able to provide our advertisers the best possible return on their investment, thus creating a win-win situation across the board.”

Volume 15
Issue 7
SIDEBAR

Monday, October 7, 2013

IN THE NEWS: Washington Blade reacts to gov’t shutdown, welcomed into White House Press Corps pool


by Joe Siegel

With the federal government partially shut down, the staff of the Washington Blade is coping with an unusual situation and turning it to the paper's advantage.

Last week’s front page – during the first week of the shutdown – featured a story detailing how the shutdown impacts HIV/AIDS programs and LGBT federal workers. Chris Johnson interviewed several activists from national LGBT organizations for the story.

“Key programs for people with HIV/AIDS are among the programs affected by the government shutdown. According to a shutdown plan from the Department of Health and Human Services, the cut off of federal funds means a loss of oversight for Ryan White AIDS Grants, a freeze in new medical research at the National Institutes of Health and no more updates for treatment and prevention recommendations for HIV at the Centers for Disease Control,” Johnson wrote.

Blade editor Kevin Naff said that the newspaper, based in the nation’s capital, is working on a number of hard news and feature stories related to the shutdown. “Right now we're working on a piece on how gay federal workers are passing the time, getting their thoughts on the shutdown and what it means to them.”
Naff said the Blade is also working on a nightlife feature about gay bars and restaurants offering discounts to federal workers who show their federal identification at the door.

As luck would have it, only a couple of weeks ago the Blade was selected to join the in-town pool rotation for the White House Press Corps, becoming the first LGBT publication to take part in the duties.

The board of the White House Correspondents’ Association approved the Blade’s application to take part in the pool along with Buzzfeed and the U.K.-based Guardian. The duty requires having a reporter monitor the president on a rotating basis to inform other members of the press about his activities within the Capital Beltway.

Steve Thomma, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, told the Blade that the vote was unanimous among the board members present and the status of the newspaper as an LGBT news outlet didn’t come up during discussions.

“This is not a political statement by the Correspondents’ Association in any way, shape or form,” Thomma said. “It is a journalistic statement. We welcome into the print pool tell-all journalists.”

Editor Naff was pleased with the decision.

“We've worked hard to establish the Blade's credibility with the White House and the correspondents association. The decision to admit the Blade to the pool rotation is a credit to the hard work of our reporters, especially Chris Johnson, in recent years. The move is also a reflection of the Blade's nearly 45-year commitment to objective, thoughtful journalism and I'm immensely proud of our staff's hard work that led to this prestigious designation.”

Volume 15
Issue 7
IN THE NEWS