Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Queer Publishing

I got a text message from a friend yesterday, inviting me to join his team to put together a gay lifestyle magazine, as editor-in-chief of all things. I responded, “You’re talking to a person who’s bobo when it comes to the gay lifestyle. And EIC work is too stressful.” I offered to contribute artwork instead.

This is not the first time I was asked to participate in a publication of this sort. I had a pseudo-meeting with another group of friends, with an initial objective of putting together possible content sections for a gay mag. It was a difficult process, and months later after that meeting, the topic has not been brought up.

The initial challenge of a gay lifestyle magazine concerns its target audience, because this group helps determine the kind of content the publication will hold. Moreover, the target audience should be sizeable enough to guarantee a decent level of sales, both in retail and advertising fronts.

What is the target audience of a gay lifestyle magazine? As the word ‘lifestyle’ suggests, we’re looking at those people who have keen interests in music, books, travel, fashion, events, technology, film and television, food, fitness, etc., topics that are no different from those found in the common lifestyle magazine. Where will the ‘gay’ element come in? If a gay man wanted to look at current fashion trends, or wanted in on the newest gadgets and gizmos, there are too many specialized magazines already out there to meet these needs. The gay lifestyle magazine should be, bottom line, gay above all else.

But what is gay? How risqué would the gay element be? To be more upfront about it, will it show male skin? Will it have gay classifieds that contain everything from escort services to personals? Will it feature articles and features on sex and relationships? Will it enter the arena of politics and society? Will it go as far as FHM as to feature sexual positions and "tips to drive him wild in bed?"

And how gay should the magazine be? Is it all-out party-time gay? Is it reserved, subtle, witty gay? Sporty Gay? Posh Gay? All of the above? If this magazine were a person, what kind of person would he or she be? What personality would attract the predetermined target audience?

Once the proper formula/policy/style guide has been developed for the publication, the greatest challenge still awaits: will a sizeable number of gay men actually go to a regular magazine stall to pick up their fresh crisp copy of Hypothetical Gay Lifestyle Magazine, complete with hunky cute guy on the cover? Also, will advertisers be open to spending their budgets for attention from the ‘pink peso’?

I cannot even begin to answer all of the above questions, but the best unsolicited advice I could give to anyone who plans to undertake this venture is, “Go for it.” If the risks are manageable and the manpower complement is able and dedicated, then there’s little reason to hesitate. By the by, putting the mag on the web first will cut costs and help in the market research.

Dagnabbit… marketing planning… it’s been a while since I used that side of my brain…

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