Interview with Publisher Russ White
by Joe Siegel
Year founded: 1978
Physical dimensions of publication: PDF is 8.25” x 10.75”
Average page count: 72
Key demographics: Gay men make up the majority of our demographic
Print run: 0 (as of 2015, we are all digital)
Web site: gay.vegas/qvegas
Press Pass Q: What part of Qvegas is the most popular?
Publisher Russ White: Over the last few years, we’ve broken the traditional publishing mold. We don’t publish an editorial calendar anymore, and we don’t have “parts” or sections anymore. We feature a variety of content that changes each month. This allows us to be more reactive to current trends and issues. Our website now ranks articles by popularity instead of a linear table of contents, so it’s quite easy to tell what’s doing well.
PPQ: Who came up with the name and what was the inspiration for it?
White: QVegas has gone by many names over the last 38 years. It originated as Vegas Gay Times in 1978, but through the years has been published as Nevada Gay Times, The Bohemian Bugle, The Bugle, but was renamed to QVegas in 2004 by the previous publisher when the magazine transitioned from newsprint to high gloss.
PPQ: What challenge has your publication had to overcome in the last few years?
White: The biggest challenge we’ve had is advertiser support through our transition to all digital. When we stopped printing, people thought we went out of business. Loyal advertisers dropped us, some even didn't send final payments. Yet, our digital presence skyrocketed. We are the most trafficked LGBTQ website in Las Vegas in both global and U.S. rankings.
PPQ: What challenge is QVegas facing now?
White: We push the technology envelope. We’ve recently revamped our website to the most modern analytics tracking available. Educating our advertisers on our user behavior and how this differs from other websites and other readers remains a challenge. Once we provide automated reporting, it will be easier for them to understand.
PPQ: How has QVegas changed since it was first launched?
White: In 1978, the publication was bi-fold, plain paper, pasted up from a typewriter. In the ‘90s, the publication was newsprint with a color cover. In 2004 we became hi-gloss. Today, we are now all digital, available on the web on Gay.Vegas, in your social media, in your inbox, downloadable as a PDF and available for print-on-demand. So many of our readers are viewing us from their mobile device, so having a responsive website is essential. No longer do you have to sneak into an adult bookstore or the back of the local gay bar to pick up a copy.
PPQ: What one change would you like to make?
White: Why just one? We keep changing all the time. Every month we add something new. We continue to innovate. Social media editions, flyby-impressions and engagement analytics, and voyeuristic tweets are just some of the innovations we’ve introduced in the past two years alone.
PPQ: Do you see yourself as an “activist journalist”? If so, in what way?
White: No. Today, we’re much more of a lifestyle and entertainment magazine. We still believe that we have the responsibility to call out actions that conflict with the LGBTQ community, but often times we find ways to resolve or mediate issues behind the scene without aggrandizing the issue. We don’t post knee-jerk articles. We’ve built trust in the community. We’ve had several instances over the years where readers report issues about negative interactions with local businesses, and we follow through, investigate, and get both sides of the issue.
PPQ: What's the most surprising feedback you've received from a reader?
White: We had a reader come up to us at an event and ask why we never publish any lesbian content. I asked her if she saw our Women’s Issue last month. She said no, she hadn’t read the magazine in several years.
PPQ: What advice would you give to anyone who may want to launch their own GLBT publication?
White: I guess that would depend on where and why. Launching a new national publication comes with huge investment and distribution challenges. You’re going to have a harder sell to advertisers. If you’re launching a local publication in a market served by any existing publications, you are going to be competing for limited LGBTQ advertising dollars. Ask yourself what existing publications are not providing the community and find out if there’s an opportunity for you to work with a publication to make it better for the community. If you feel your publication can co-exist and is better for your community, go for it. If your intentions are mean-spirited or capitalistic because you just want to push the other publication out or make a quick buck on the gay dollar, karma kicks in eventually. Bifurcating the market does no one any good.