Thursday, December 12, 2013

Dallas’ Voice Publishing rebrands gay yellow pages directory as OUT North Texas, part of move toward magazine format

by David Webb

Voice Publishing LLC, based in Dallas, is revamping its traditional gay yellow pages directory to a “glossy, full-color, slick magazine with a dynamic LGBT visitors guide” for Dallas-Fort Worth that will include a business directory, a relocation guide and a new name.

Publisher Leo A. Cusimano said the redo includes a new name for the publication to enhance its presentation to the LGBT community. Formerly known as the Dallas Voice Yellow Pages, the rebranded publication will be called OUT North Texas.

“The name change to OUT North Texas was to help build a stronger, more vibrant, more relevant publication,” Cusimano said. “We also wanted to get out of the yellow pages genre and position ourselves as an extensive LGBT visitors guide with a comprehensive business directory.”

The overhaul and rebranding of the yellow pages allowed OUT North Texas to become the official LGBT visitors guide endorsed by the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, Cusimano noted. The new name also gave the publication a new emphasis in the LGBT market, he said.

“‘Out’ is a word that resonates in the LGBT community, and it is also a word to designate going out, which works well for the visitors,” Cusimano said.

Cusimano said reaction to the name change and the new design is favorable. “In both camps – our readership and our advertisers – we have heard positive feedback to help us move forward,” he said. “On the readership side, using a traditional yellow page booklet is a thing of the past. The advertisers love the glossy, bigger format to display their offerings.”

OUT North Texas advertising sales have already surpassed Dallas Voice Yellow Pages sales figures in the first year, even though advertising salespeople had no product to show prospective customers, Cusimano said. The yellow pages had begun to experience a slow decline in sales, he said.

“Our expectation for OUT North Texas is rapid growth,” Cusimano said. “Once we have the magazine in hand to sell from, we expect sales will elevate and reverse the downward sales pattern.”

Cusimano said the concept of rebranding Dallas Voice Yellow Pages to OUT North Texas began in May with the realization that magazines appear to be more attractive to readers and more effective for advertisers. Publishing statistics show that magazines fare better than traditional newspapers these days in terms of circulation and revenue, and the goal is to transform all of the company’s publications to a magazine format, he said.

“I understand business ownership to be about vision, direction and leadership,” said Cusimano, who became publisher in April. He went to work for the newspaper in 1992 and led its advertising department for two decades before purchasing it along with the publication’s president, Terry Thompson, from Dallas Voice founder Robert Moore. “My vision is to move us into a magazine format.”

Thompson, who is an equal business partner with Cusimano, agreed that advertisers are excited about the new publication, and he said that he expects readers to be delighted with the product as well. OUT North Texas will become a “handy resource, a reference book for all things gay in our area of the world,” he said.

“Dallas Voice has been around for 30 years,” Thompson said. “That’s longer than most of our clients. And that kind of staying power means a confidence in our business model, and how well we execute our finished products.”

The evolution of Dallas Voice from its traditional newspaper format began about two years ago when it switched from a front-page newspaper format to a tabloid cover page highlighting a major news story and a lifestyle article inside. Dallas Voice now publishes a glossy cover about four times a year for special editions, and Cusimano said he wants to increase that number in 2014.

The Internet revolution has changed publishing significantly, and readers depend more on websites to get information about breaking news stories, Cusimano said. Studies show that readers are more likely to refer to a magazine from a website than any other type of publication, he said.

A redesign is planned for Dallas Voice next year for the publication’s 30-year anniversary to move it closer to a magazine format, and within about five years Cusimano said he would like to see the publication completely transformed to a magazine with a new page size with bright white pages throughout it. Dallas Voice has undergone numerous redesigns over the decades, but it has always been published in the size of most alternative tabloid publications.

Cusimano said a glossy magazine would be more reflective of Dallas’ LGBT community, thereby appealing to it more. “The Dallas LGBT community is glitzy and glamorous and focused on quality,” he said. “A glossy magazine is the ideal direction to meet this market’s needs.”

Voice Publishing launched Dallas Voice Yellow Pages in 2008 after purchasing its predecessor, DFW Lambda Pages, from Todd Cunningham of Angle Media in 2006 and publishing it for two years under the original name. At the time of the purchase, there were three yellow pages being distributed on the street.

“We wanted to continue the efforts of publishing a directory specifically for the LGBT community,” Cusimano said. “We wanted to make our mark. Our efforts at Dallas Voice had positioned us well to change the landscape. We took a different approach, creating an integrated product. Today, we have our print product, but we also have an online and mobile version as well.”

Today, Voice Publishing is positioning itself as a media company with several ways to reach the LGBT community, rather than being “pigeonholed as a newspaper,” Cusimano said. The media company is utilizing print and online publishing, e-mail blasts and mobile technology to distribute news, in addition to the new publication OUT North Texas, he said.

Lambda Pages originally was founded by Kay Christian in 1992 who sold it to Cummingham. The 21-year-old yellow pages publication is now in its third rebranding with the new name.

Dallas Voice published its first issue May 11, 1984, beginning a steady rise to prominence as the LGBT publication of record in Texas. Founder Moore retired this year when he sold the company to Cusimano and Thompson.

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