Gay Mags Aren't, GLBT Titles Suffer Ad Erosion Amid Stable Readership

by , Nov 21, 2006, 8:50 AM
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Despite a loyal readership and niche appeal, gay-themed print publications are experiencing a downturn in ad spending, apparently beset by the same difficulties as the rest of the magazine world. The change is especially significant because it follows a two-year period when gay media, including magazines, outperformed the industry as a whole.

Data on circulation and ad spending are only available for two of the largest and most widely recognized gay magazines, The Advocate and Out. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations' latest FAS-FAX report for consumer magazines, The Advocate appears to be building its subscription base, adding about 14,000 subscribers in the first half of 2006 compared to the same period in 2005. That's 16.4% growth--making the decline in ad pages and spending more noticeable. In October, ad pages fell 23.3% compared to the same month last year, while rate-card revenue was down 3%. For the year to date, ad pages are down 14.4% from the same period last year, while rate-card revenue fell 2.3%.

Meanwhile Out, the less cerebral sister magazine also published by LPI Media, has seen ad pages fall 8.3% and rate-card revenue 3.4% for the year to date. That's despite healthy 11.8% year-over-year growth in subscriptions according to ABC, ending around 122,000 in the first half of 2006.

The mags' troubles stand out in a gay ad market that is generally booming, according to the most recent Gay Market Press Report, an annual report produced by Prime Access, an ad firm, and Rivendell Media Co. The latest report, released this May, had total advertising in gay media reaching $212 million. However, much of this budget goes to local gay publications including newspapers covering culture, leisure, and politics in specific cities or regions.

The magazines are also facing stiff competition from the Internet, including big names like PlanetOut, parent company of Gay.com. Gays and lesbians are earlier adopters of new technology than the population at large, and the Internet has been especially important in connecting diffuse populations. In 2005, PlanetOut's revenue was up 43% over 2004, ending at $35.6 million. Gays and lesbians have also taken to the Internet for business, showing higher affinity for online banking and travel booking than the population at large.

Advertisers also have new options in the form of a dedicated cable channel, Logo, launched by Viacom in June 2005. By the end of 2005 it was broadcast to 19 million subscribers and was running ads from a host of mainstream advertisers.

The overall appeal of the gay demo is clear: according to the Gay Market Press Report, the 16 million gay consumers over the age of 18 have a combined spending power of $641 billion.

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