Gay-Targeted Startup Shows Moxie

moxieWith the landscape of mobile media still evolving, at least one startup is betting that cell phones will prove to be gay-friendly terrain. Billing itself as the first gay-focused mobile entertainment property, MoxieQ formally launches Tuesday with a mix of celebrity news and gossip, fashion tips, personal advice and travel guides.

The goal of the ad-supported site (m.moxie.com) is to appeal both to the affluent and culturally influential gay community as well as the broader straight audience embracing programming with a gay sensibility via outlets such as cable TV network Bravo.

"To some degree we're capitalizing on gay culture becoming more integrated into the mainstream," said MoxieQ co-founder and CEO Heidi Lehmann, a former executive at AOL-owned mobile ad network Third Screen Media. To that end, the New York-based company has brought on talent including underwear designer and Bravo "TheFashion Show" personality Andrew Christian to host a section called "Daily Briefs," showcasing his creations. "That's the raciest thing we've got," assures Lehmann.

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The mix of original and syndicated content also includes gay-themed TV listings and clips from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Anti-Defamation (GLAAD), the Gay Cities travel guide, quiz game Test Your Gay IQ, and advice column Ask Mr. Moxie." There's even Gay Weather, with a drag queen warning of "raging drama" and thunderstorms Tuesday in New York.

Putting it all in a mobile package is a smart way to reach the lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender (LGBT) audience of 16 million, according to Lehmann. "When you think about what niche fits mobile, LGBT seemed to be perfect because it's a community that's out and about a lot and are early tech adopters. So mobile seemed to be great for what we're trying to accomplish," she said.

Lehmann acknowledges that the economic downturn makes it a tough time to start a business, especially a niche mobile site. So far MoxieQ, which also has a wired Web presence, hasn't lined up any advertisers. Usually new sites debut with at least one launch sponsor. But she's confident that brands such as Levi's, Apple, Orbitz and top vodka brands that target its audience of "affluent influencers" will find their way to the site.

As evidence of major brands' growing ease with gay-themed content, she points to research showing that 183 of the Fortune 500 in 2007 had a presence in gay media compared to only 19 in 1987. "The demographic is one of heightened interest to mainstream advertisers,' she said.

Scaring up venture capital funding is another matter. "The toughest thing has been the fund-raising climate," concedes Lehmann, who nevertheless believes that bootstrapping will give the company the fiscal discipline necessary to survive the recession. The startup should be able to count on a steady supply of underwear, at least.

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