February 10, 2009
Gay media woes hit close to home
Posted by: Chris
I wrote recently about how economic woes have accelerated the difficulties facing the media industry in general and gay media in particular. Window Media, the company I co-founded back in 1997 and where I headed up editorial operations for more than a decade, has been no exception.
The latest news, reported in Gay City News -- a longtime competitor to Window's New York Blade and HX Magazine -- is that Avalon Equity Partners, the New York-based venture capital firm that has funded Window's growth since 2001, has been put into receivership by the Small Business Administration. The SBA took the drastic step after Avalon failed over a period of time to maintain adequate reserves relative to the $38 million the SBA has put into Avalon.
The SBA will now take steps to sell off the assets of Avalon to satisfy its debts and to return as much money as possible to the fund's investors. It's unclear the impact that will have on the gay publications that are owned by companies that, while in Avalon's portfolio, are not owned outright by the VC firm.
Although the term "Window Media" is often used to describe the whole range of publications related to Avalon, the company Window Media LLC owns only the Washington Blade and Southern Voice newspaper in Atlanta. A number of original investors in Window, most residents of Atlanta, retain their ownership in Window, as do I and as does William Waybourn, my co-founder. So while Avalon owns a controlling interest in Window Media, the Blade and SoVo are not "assets" of Avalon, per se.
The same is true of other publications in the Window Media "family," including those owned by Unite Media LLC: David Atlanta magazine, the South Florida Blade (formerly Express Gay News), and 411 magazine in Fort Lauderdale. Also, Unite entered into a joint ownership arrangement with HX Media that publishes HX, the New York Blade and previously published the New England Blade (formerly In Newsweekly) and HX Philadelphia. Then there's Genre magazine, which may well be owned outright by Avalon.
Much has been written over the years about whether the consolidation of gay media titles was a positive development for the publications or the communities they serve. The reality has varied greatly, depending in large part by the staff at each publication, the source fund doing the aggregating, and the communities themselves. In some cases, consolidation saved publications that would have otherwise folded, or at least preserved them for a number of years longer than they would have. In many cases, consolidation resulted in greatly improved editorial quality. In some cases, unfortunately, consolidation has meant an unrelenting focus on the bottom line, without regard to the way in which editorial quality and commitment to community are integrally important to the economic health of these publications.
The news about Avalon is still fresh, although the receivership actually occurred way back in August 2008, and there will be more no doubt to report. At this point, it's unclear whether the troubled status of the money source behind these eight gay publications will trickle down or not. I'll let you know more when I do.
TrackBack URL for this entry:
The comments to this entry are closed.