If, as is being widely reported, Gay Star News is to close its doors for the final time, it will be a blow not just for the company’s talented management and staff, but for all of us in LGBTQ media and, for that matter, gay business as a whole.
As far as I can tell – and I worked there for a bit a few years ago – GSN is well managed, delivers a high-quality product and has a pretty sizeable worldwide audience. The owners, Scott Nunn and Tris Reid-Smith are well respected in the LGBTQ media universe. Editor David Hudson, whom I’ve known for more than 20 years since he was at the helm of Boyz back in the 90s, is not only a brilliant journalist, but also one of the most genuine blokes in the business. It should go without saying that I wish Scott, Tris and David well.
I have no inside information about why the company has been forced to close but I can tell you that it is becoming increasingly difficult for the LGBTQ media to attract a regular stream of advertising and sponsorship income. Print publications like Attitude, DIVA and Gay Times do have a cover price but, then again, need to stump up for printing and distribution so, even if you can charge for your product, the need for ad revenue is in no way obviated. Those of us who live in the digisphere cannot charge our readers; even The Sun had to take down its paywall, so what chance OutNews Global?
As it happens, we’re doing OK – but OutNews Global is a completely different beast to GSN. While GSN was – is – a vigorous news organisation with journalists all over the world, we tend to focus on features, opinion pieces and reviews. If we lived in the world of print, Gay Star News would be a newspaper, OutNews Global a magazine.
We’re smack bang in the middle of a wonderful Summer of Pride. Of the biggies, Birmingham and London have already happened, while Brighton and Manchester both take place in August. Dozens of other Pride events add to the general outness and proudness, and many survive on the generous sponsorship of business. Banks, supermarkets and law firms invest in parade floats with added merchandise and it seems as if almost every company on the planet has repurposed their logos in fetching rainbow hues.
Corporate support keeps events like Pride in London free for everyone, and that is officially A Good Thing, but in the same way that a dog is not just for Christmas, pride – a real commitment to the communities which make up that ubiquitous rainbow – is not just for summer. Our communities need support all year round, not only during the season of sunshine and parades.
The LGBTQ media play a hugely significant role in making the world a better place for its readers. Strands like our own “Tales of a Single Middle-Aged Gay Man” by Steven Smith simply wouldn’t be run by the mainstream press, while my friends and sisters at DIVA are constantly being reminded that their magazine was a lifeline to so many young, marginalised lesbians who felt alone, vulnerable and unloved while growing up. Representation and visibility are important, and the gay press provides exactly that.
There are some who aver that the rainbowing up of business during the summer pride season is no more than cynical bandwagon jumping, but I have no truck with this position. I know a lot of people in the business world who lead on equality, diversity and inclusion (and not only for the LGBTQ communities but for all minorities) and I do not doubt their commitment for one moment. Many have changed the culture of some pretty substantial corporates for the better and forever.
This costs hard cash, and I am delighted that so many companies choose to spend it on showing support to their LGBTQ staff and customers, but if just a tiny proportion of their budgets were redirected to supporting LGBTQ media all year round, the difference it would make our communities would be incalculable. I like to think that we all provide an invaluable service to our readers, one which is simply not replicated in the mainstream press. What’s more, LGBTQ people are far more likely to buy a product or service from a company which reaches out directly to them so, from where I’m sitting, it’s a win-win.
So, if you work in a business with a marketing budget, have a word with those who spend it and ask them to get in touch with us, Gay Times, DIVA, qx or any of the other excellent publications that make up the LGBTQ media. Supporting gay media is every bit as important as supporting gay pride and our readers will love you forever!