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  • « The Week on GNW (Feb. 1-7) | Main | In France, more straights opting for civil unions over marriage »

    February 10, 2009

    Gay media woes hit close to home

    Posted by: Chris

    Avalon 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.

    Windowpubs2 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.

    Windowpubs1 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.



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    1. jpeckjr on Feb 10, 2009 6:57:34 PM:

      Chris, I know this is weighing on your mind and hope you are doing okay personally.

      I was a resident of Atlanta when SOVO was founded, before you were involved, and remember looking forward to every issue. I have not lived in Atlanta for 20 years, but still go to the SOVO website to keep up with the LGBT community in my hometown. It's a good publication.

    1. MARCELLO on Feb 10, 2009 7:02:42 PM:

      Hi we loved your blog and want to exchange links with you. I've already added your site to my blogroll. Wait for your answer.



    1. Eric Erickson on Feb 10, 2009 7:11:37 PM:

      The Washington Blade became unreadable after the takeover by Windows Media. Instead of a newspaper of interest to local readers, it became a poor man's version of the Advocate. The "quality editorials" came from Atlanta or NY, with little of interest to DC readers.

      After the insulting hiring of Jeff Gannon, my protests and others were met with indifference by the WM ownership, so I simply stopped reading. I don't know or care if they Blade is still published, as it has become irrelevant to my life or interests.

    1. Misha on Feb 10, 2009 7:19:31 PM:

      This is another painful chapter, most notably for the remaining employees who carry the uncertainty with them every day and at some level are bogged down personally and in their work by its implications. Even though the publications are not wholly owned by Avalon, its hard to imagine any scenario in which the cash cow goes down without selling the beleaguered papers. And since the pubs are a key reason for Avalon's losses, if a VC with millions-deep pockets can't save them, what buyer could?

    1. Tim C on Feb 11, 2009 1:06:49 PM:

      Well, it's no secret that print media is in trouble all over. There is no reason to believe that Window Media would be any more insulated from the sea change taking place in the media than would be the NY Times, the Washington Post or the Cincinnati Enquirer. Newsweek magazine is undergoing a radical reshaping in an attempt to stay viable; US News & World Report is now a monthly. In fact, as essentially none of the revenues of Window Media come from subscriptions, they are more vulnerable to economic conditions as advertisers retrench in spending. Seeking to reach more people with the same dollar, they will look closely at their spend in niche market publication. A free weekly with professional standards and relevant content could be nearly impossible to maintain in the current environment.

    1. RJ Petrucci on Feb 26, 2009 9:47:16 AM:

      Chris Crain is one of the true demon conservatives that have agressively worked to roll back the advances of the gay community. His internalized homophobia is evident in his endless work to "Butch Up" the gay work with his website Outsports.

      His greatest sin was the destruction of the Liberal Gay Press. This one wealthy connected bastard consolidated the liberal independent press for his personal gain, turned the Washington Blade into a national joke when he hired Jeff Gannon and gave him a byline. He then sold it all off for profit to move to Brazil with his "hottie". Truely as disgusting a gay man as I have seen and one that will be remembered for the destruction of the Liberal Independent Gay Press - because he was rich of enough of a "conservative" to take it down. Burn in hell Chris = I cheered your beating in Amsterdam - nobody deserved it more.


    1. RJ Petrucci on Feb 26, 2009 9:53:17 AM:

      Ha !

      Spin all you want and delete all the comments you want.
      There are thinking people out there are immune to your BS and followed and understand what you have done.

    1. Rich on Nov 18, 2009 11:13:13 PM:

      Crain tries to put the best face on this, but all of the efforts to consolidate gay media have been resounding failures. The enormous debt built up to buy publications was not as dramatic or ridiculous as what happened with Creative Loafing, but essentially it was the same thing. Indeed, both involved Atlanta greedheads buying and degrading newspapers in markets they did not understand.

      Crain's editorial stewardship was erratic with "innovations" like bringing on escort/pseudo journalist "Jeff Gannon" and Crain's own eccentric performance as an advocate for gay rights in between petty tirades at more effective advocates and his efforts to protect destructive closet case friends like Ken Mehlman. Over the past decade, cheap money has enabled arrogant incompetent people to buy and wreck viable businesses. The Blade has a chance at coming back---the DC area continues to be a good market for news weeklies of many kinds. Perhaps, something can come out of the ashes of SoVo and David, although Atlanta seems plagued by people who underestimate their public, following in the feudal traditions of the South. Hopefully, Crain will remain retired from any attempt at active journalism.

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