DIVA publisher Linda Riley on the sudden closure of the LGBTQI news site, and the challenges facing queer media today
BY LINDA RILEY
I was saddened to read this week the news about the demise of LGBTQI news site Gay Star News.
Owners Tris Reid-Smith and Scott Nunn are two of the nicest, most genuine guys in the business and I wish them – and the many staff who today find themselves without a job – well for the future.
Their brainchild Digital Pride reached upwards of 50 million people annually and their relentless campaigning for global LGBT rights has reached millions more. I was honoured when they lent the Gay Star News name to my #No2LGBTHate campaign in 2017 – something that led to Twitter meeting with me and changing their policy on online hate speech – and was delighted to see them earlier this month at the launch of the Pride Power List.
I’ve worked in LGBTQI media for around 20 years and it’s never been tougher to make ends meet.
At DIVA, we are endlessly grateful for our readers, advertisers and of course the backing of our board, who all make it possible to tell queer women’s stories, but print media is a very expensive business and we count ourselves so, so lucky to still be here, 25 years since we first launched.
I don’t know the details of what happened at Gay Star News and I don’t want to speculate on the circumstances of its demise. But one thing I’ve learnt over the years is that every single print or digital LGBTQ publication is heavily reliant on advertising revenue, and the situation is getting more and more difficult. Here’s why.
Larger corporates and ad agencies, who often flaunt their LGBTQI-friendly credentials, are loath to support the “niche” titles like those aimed at the LGBTQI community with their ad campaigns, often questioning why they should advertise in LGBTQI media when lesbians, bi people, gay men and trans folk read mainstream publications too.
I’m baffled by this. We can’t compete with the readership of The Guardian or the Daily Mail, no. But there is still a value in reaching out to a smaller, specific demographic.
Put crudely, what used to be known as the “Pink Pound” is still a thing, and it would be great if more businesses not only recognised this but did something about it.
Another thing I’ve learnt is that the larger the business or agency, the later they pay. One agency, and discretion bars me from naming and shaming them here, has yet to pay for a DIVA ad campaign which ended last September.
I am assured that funds are on their way, and I have no doubt that they are but, with the best will in the world, sticking a rainbow flag on your Twitter profile during Pride season but withholding payment from small LGBTQI businesses for several months does, at best, demonstrate a lack of understanding of how to support the LGBTQI community.
The last 10 years has seen the decimation of real life LGBTQI spaces in the UK, and sadly, the same seems to be happening to digital and print ones too. But we need these spaces – however niche or small some think they might be.
So please do what you can to support LGBTQI media. Buy a magazine, turn off your ad blocker, and lift up queer creators wherever and however you can.
Now, more than ever, we need to stand together against those who would take our rights away, and we simply cannot afford to lose another valuable resource like Gay Star News.
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