Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Dwindling Ranks of Gay Magazines

On a whim, I decided to update my blog's look at the state of gay magazines, which have been decimated in recent years. A combination of the brutal recession, the ability of the internet to undercut the print publications' market (especially for the adult titles), and some already weak publications has resulted in a steady decline in the ranks of publications targeting the gay audience.

But decimated doesn't do justice to the decline. The word comes from the ancient Romans, whose military commanders would punish mutinous or disastrously performing troops by killing one out of every 10 troops under their command (the deci- root comes from the Latin for ten). A brutal form of punishment, yes; but the rate of loss in the magazine market is likely much more than 10 percent.

Just checking out this list of gay magazines finds that of the 10 listed, five have ceased publication – six if you count The Advocate, which officially became a special section of sister mag Out. (One could quibble with my counting; there are additional surviving and dead magazines not listed, and Echelon, after all, is counted as having ceased publication, but it apparently is still alive as an online-only magazine. An online-only magazine is, to me, by definition an internet product. But such quibbles are what make life worth living, and a disagreement on that particular title doesn't appreciably alter the numbers calculation.)

I've long maintained on this blog – and still do – that print has a healthy future, if it does what print does best and lets the internet do what the 'net does best. I suspect that this market niche is kind of uniquely vulnerable to the internet. That part of the magazines' coverage that was about building community and interaction is exactly what the internet does better than print. And those magazines that offered little or nothing more than adult content have obviously lost their reason for living, in a world where the internet makes videos and pictures of any- and everything ubiquitous and often free.

Hope springs eternal, however. Playgirl (the ostensibly female-oriented but gay-friendly skin publication) is back and is trying to buck the trend, though not well, if you ask me. And on the non-adult side, we'll see how relatively new titles such as the wonderful Winq from the Netherlands fares.

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