Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Disappearing Gay Magazine Market

To be more specific, today's blog post is about the disappearing gay adult magazine market, though even some non-adult gay magazines are having a tough time of it (for example, The Advocate). From Matthew Rettenmund comes word that Men and Freshmen will cease publication (or will go to newsstand-only distribution as quarterly themed magazines [warning: that last link includes some NSFW images], which, as Rettenmund correctly points out, is pretty much death for a magazine anyway. Advertisers don't consider quarterly magazines to be magazines, and readers tend to forget about a magazine three months after the last issue.

Rettenmund, for you uninitiated, is a popular novelist and magazine editor. Before his current gig, he had served as an editor at Mavety magazines, which published a string of gay periodicals that were all abruptly shuttered earlier this year.

The same thing is true about Men and Freshmen that was true when I wrote it about the Mavety magazines. These magazines had nothing more to them than porn. For years, gay skin magazines have launched with the promise to be the "gay Playboy," but they never delivered. If they had non-sex-related material in them (travel articles or interviews), those very soon disappeared so they could devote more pages to what they assumed their readers were buying the magazine to get: erotic stories and nude photos. I've got nothing against either, but I do note that Playboy is still around -- bowed and challenged, yes, but still publishing with millions of readers -- while competitor Penthouse threw away its millions of readers when publisher Guccione ramped up the sex content in a last-ditch (futile) effort to save his publishing empire. The nudity and sexual content can be gotten easily and endlessly online, so at best it is an added spice to a print publication. The print publication needs to offer something that is much rarer online, which in my humble (and constantly repeated) opinion should be longform journalism, good writing, and good reader service. Playboy still does that. Winq more or less does that. Men and Freshmen don't/didn't.

One last note: For a great fictional look behind the scenes at a New York-based gay magazine, read Rettenmund's 1998 novel Blind Items, which features the editor of just such a magazine trying to juggle his job, a new love, and celebrity closets.

UPDATE 1/20/11: This report has been updated and expanded in my new digital magazine, Magma. Read it free online.

UPDATE 3/25/11: Mate and Winq magazines team up.
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