Saturday, May 2, 2009

Winq: New Magazine Covering Global Gay Culture

I thought its title was "wing," but that didn't matter much. The real title is "winq," and that makes as much sense for an international gay magazine as "wing." So I bought the magazine, and have been impressed so far. It's been a long time since I've found a new magazine that actually impresses me with its quality and originality.

Yes, it's a new magazine. The issue I purchased was actually the second (spring 2009) American edition of a magazine from the Netherlands. The Dutch edition has been around for twenty-something issues, so it's a new/old magazine, but nonetheless it's a print magazine launch in the recession-rocked United States. It's new to us, as they say.

This is a magazine that could teach American magazines a thing or two. At $7.95 and 148 pages (including covers), it's a good value and it also sports some solid advertising support (but not overpowering; it's ad-edit ratio must be very low): Lufthansa, Dsquared, Dirk Bikkembergs, Adidas, Giorgio Armani, Wrangler, and others. The next thing you notice about Winq is that its interior pages are high-quality, uncoated, full-color paper. The layout, design, and production seem to be top-quality, and the articles are an interesting collection that range from the political (a look at Obama and equal rights) to the surprising (a profile of a gay prince in India) to the expected (an overview of famous rich gays around the world) to the juvenile (a look at how people use sex talk around the world).

There are also a couple photo spreads of lightly clad men, but there's no nudity. This is a magazine that can be left on the coffee table, unless you are having Miss California over for dinner.

Overall, its quality and originality caught my eye. It is doing something that other gay magazines are not doing, either by choice or lack of vision and abilities. American gay periodicals are either all-sex-and-nudity, or they're aimed at a very small portion of the gay audience, which takes narrow-casting to an extreme. Any time you take a small enough audience (gay men, classical music afficionados, comics readers, Catholic social workers), there's the danger that the publication will be overly narrow in viewpoint. The topics aren't narrow; the viewpoints expressed in articles usually are, because there simply isn't a large enough pool of writing talent on staff. So Winq solves that by being the magazine of "global queer culture," and it's an approach that can probably be used by other magazines, gay or straight. In fact, it is being used by a monthly news-and-business magazine called Monocle, which brings to American audiences ideas and news and culture from around the globe.

There are other attempts at bringing American gay readers something different, but distribution seems to be a challenge to them. Mate magazine is a German gay publication that also produces an English-language edition. It's high quality and features a lot of good coverage of style and travel, but the magazine is hard to find. And British publications such as Gay Times aren't really global magazines; they are thoroughly British in outlook, they just have distribution in the United States.

So, welcome to Winq. I don't know how long it'll survive in the United States, but while it does, I hope it encourages other publishers in niche markets to aim high in quality and higher in originality.

UPDATE 3/27/11: Winq and Mate magazines team up.
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