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    January 15, 2008

    Soon to be no PlanetOut?

    Posted by: Chris

    Planetoutstock2007 The last we heard from the troubled gay media conglomerate PlanetOut, the news seemed mostly positive. The company's RSVP Vacations unit, which had been bleeding cash for months, was successfully sold off to competitor Atlantis Events. A cash infusion of $26.2 million had paid off looming creditors, and among the angels had been a certain Bill Gates of Microsoft fame.

    But even as the Bay Area Reporter was reporting the "good news" two months ago, the company's stock was again taking a nosedive, perhaps anticipating another poor quarterly earnings report or perhaps because some larger investors saw the opportunity to cash out while they could.

    Today, the San Francisco-based company announced it was suspending earnings forecasts and investor calls and has hired a consulting firm to help it find potential buyers. That could mean the company that brings us Gay.com, the Advocate, Out, Allyson Books and much much more could be gobbled up by a bigger (non-gay) fish, rescued again by a new set of investors or sold off in pieces.

    If the latter happens, it would seem to signal the failure of a grand experiment, pooling the assets of some of the gay media's marquee names with the hope of creating through synergy something bigger and better than the sum of its parts. I know something about that sort of experiment.

    Mergers in the gay media have stirred plenty of criticism, some justified but much of it uninformed. When the Advocate's publisher LPI bought Out Magazine, for example, the two magazines were put under the same editorial director Judy Weider and became essentially carbon copies of one another -- a problem that PlanetOut addressed and corrected with a publisher/editor shuffle last year.

    During the dot.com heyday, PlanetOut seemed a bit too eager to spend it cash reserves on smaller gay companies when it wasn't entirely clear how the pieces of the company puzzle would fit together. The RSVP purchase practically sank the mother ship, partly due to some fluke logistical problems but also because it never really made sense for a media firm to own a cruise promotions company.

    Even if PlanetOut is cut into smaller pieces, the real culprit won't be gay merger mania. The dot.com industry changed in ways few foresaw, and competing sites offered many of the same services that Gay.com members had been paying for. Even today, specialty media companies are struggling to adapt to new media, especially if management is old-media schooled.

    Social networking sites remain a hot commodity, but like so much of the internet market, figuring out how to turn great ideas into a reliable revenue stream has proven a very tricky business indeed.

    It's very unfortunate to hear this latest news from PlanetOut because the company seemed to be doing many of the things it needed to do to turn things around. This is one experiment I'm still hoping works out for all concerned.



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    1. Bob on Jan 15, 2008 1:51:19 PM:

      Gay.com...does anyone pay for that? I have a profile there which I rarely use. I have one on adam4adam too. A4A often has twice as many users online at any given time. And it's free. Makes sense to me.

    1. Double T on Jan 15, 2008 2:49:13 PM:

      (Bob) Some people still do pay for Gay.com. Free version limits some of the services they offer.

      I'm sorry to see PlanteOut take the drive, but it's free market place, the smarts rise, the others fall.

      PlanteOut has revenue streams. They do well in area of, well, Porn.

      It's funny that a group of people preaching to the world to accept yourself for who you are, are embarrassed that they make money off people's sexual desires. Perhaps a little self reflection is in order.

      If not for sex, what makes the Gays different from the Straights?

      I realize that P/Out wants to take the "high road", all substance and no skin. But does that reflex the community? Let’s face it sex sells. I think if P/Out wants to save themselves, they need to leave the ivory tower.

      I get it, “we want to be squeaky clean to attract the right advertisers”, but what good is it if you’re bankrupt?

    1. truth on Jan 19, 2008 3:02:50 PM:

      Chris is generous and kind in his appraisal of the situation. But hard facts speak another truth. I am told they are sponsoring the Dinah for the 3rd year in a row despite no lesbian brand. Ca-ching! They announced yet another round of cash for the very people who created this mess. Good people leaving in droves. Every opportunity to fix things has been bungled, and the bunglers pass blame to the people who are two low on the totem pole to fight back. The board is not passionate about Gay people, and does not understand the business. Hopefully, Chris, and one can always hope, a new buyer(s) will step in, clean house and re-establish this company as a lean, smartly run Gay icon. Stay on top of this story. It is very important for Gay people to know that someone in the media is paying attention and reporting the truth. And in this latest "no more information will be provided" climate, the truth has to be dug for. It won't come from the management of the company.

    1. Jay Taub on Mar 7, 2008 1:52:12 PM:

      This company is so badly managed I don't know where to begin. Why have they allowed
      top management people to stay when their track record is creating the final death blows?

      Yes, the President was let go of under very suspicious circumstances and they sold off RSVP but just look at where PlanetOut is going. I know that there are too many high level executives there that are useless, not to mention a CEO not listening to the right people or not listening at all.

    1. Brandon on May 1, 2008 3:08:08 PM:

      It is sad this company will fail but agree with the last comment in particular. The people in charge now are useless to the company and the good people left along time ago.

      If they had seen top management wasn't doing its job and really listening to people who do know, no matter what their job title was this company might have been saved.

      Too many big egos with big jobs running PlanetOut with empty ideas.

    1. ugg short on Nov 17, 2011 3:59:55 AM:

      from your dreams and hug them

    1. Monster Beats Sale on Nov 30, 2011 1:38:21 AM:

      Too many big egos with big jobs running PlanetOut with empty ideas.

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