GAY MEDIA REPORT: THE GAYPERS DEBATE - Competition for ad revenue between the paid-for gay press and the weekly free gay papers, the gaypers, is at an all-time high. Here, both sides of this market argue the pros and cons

KIM WATSON

KIM WATSON



Marketing director, Millivres



There are now several gay and lesbian magazines with a newstrade

distribution. Gay Times was launched in March 1984, while Diva first

came out in March 1994 - the same time as Attitude - as a bi-monthly to

target the women’s market, and goes monthly from this April. The launch

of Attitude saw Gay Times and Diva move to USM Distribution and resulted

in healthy increases in circulation and advertising for both titles.



Gay Times and Diva, both published by Millivres, have high reader

loyalty (80 per cent buy every issue of the former and 93 per cent the

latter).



In the last five years, Gay Times (circulation 64,000) and, more

recently, Diva (30,000), have taken more mainstream advertising,

predominantly from the spheres of music, film, theatre and opera; but

also from major drink and cigarette brands, property developers and

finance companies.



We haven’t, however, seen much progress in fashion, fragrances or

travel.



These are three key areas that are missing a vital marketplace.



The most common objection raised to advertising in the paid-for gay

media is that our readership is too old. This ignores the common

characteristics of a gay lifestyle: double income, no kids, a ’stay

young’ mentality and high disposable income. This, coupled with a

thriving gay bar and club scene (a youth brand manager’s heaven),

results in many gay men in their late thirties living it up and looking

good. Similar characteristics apply to gay women. Diva’s readers are 68

per cent ABC1 with an average annual income of pounds 18,000 (pounds

4,000 higher than heterosexual women in the UK).



So what are the advantages of a paid-for gay magazine, as opposed to a

free title, for a campaign? The first advantage over the free press is

the quality, but not just in terms of high-calibre paper. As the reader

has bought the title, they will invariably take it home and keep it well

beyond its monthly shelf life. There is also the cost per page. Our

ratecards offer a monthly shelf life at a lower cost than most free gay

weeklies, and yet a better quality end product.



In a recent article, it was suggested that a few more facts and figures

about the gay consumer might help overcome the objections of mainstream

companies considering advertising in the gay press.



The information is available if you know where to look. Every two years

Gay Times and Diva undertake a major research survey. During December

1997, we also commissioned an independent street survey, targeting the

gay male youth market, to ascertain their buying, reading and lifestyle

behaviour.



With a 40,000-strong mailing list, we also undertake regular customer

satisfaction surveys across all our titles and our mail-order

service.



JULIAN ALEXANDER



Publisher, Thud



Britain has a thriving gay leisure industry. London alone has more than

150 different gay venues, attracting an affluent clientele, aged

predominantly 18-40, with a high disposable income. Britain’s free gay

press, distributed primarily through these very same venues, is uniquely

positioned to deliver the most effective means of reaching these

consumers, literally putting advertisers right into their hands.



The free gay press (gaypers) ranges from club-zines like QX to

newspapers such as the Pink Paper - published by Chronos, which also

publishes Boyz.



My company, Vadavision, publishes Thud, a weekly magazine with an

emphasis on news, features and entertainment. A seven-day TV and

listings guide ensures a longer shelf-life than its rivals. In common

with other gaypers, however, it also contains substantial ’scene’

coverage and listings - a vital component of its appeal to a readership

for whom the routine of collecting the gaypers from their local gay bar

or club to plan their nights out (or in) is well established.



Diverse in the range of venues on offer, the gay scene is, by

definition, conveniently self-contained and thus easily reached by

forward-thinking marketers. The point is this: ’It’s about distribution,

stupid.’ Through our unique and focused distribution channels targeting

’out’ gays confident enough to enjoy gay venues and, thus, our

publications, the gaypers offer an unparalleled means of reaching these

switched-on consumers.



Paid-for gay titles such as Gay Times (with an older and less socially

active readership) and Attitude often use the time-worn rationale that

only a paid-for title can demonstrate shelf-life and reader commitment,

arguing that free distribution is both unreliable and unfocused. While

this argument might apply to other sectors of free publishing, in such a

tightly controlled distribution environment as the gay scene it is

obviously inapplicable.



Consider this, too: Gay Times has been published for ten years, Attitude

for three years, and yet neither has an ABC figure, despite claiming

exceptionally healthy circulation. On the other hand, try finding a copy

of any popular gayper left on the shelves of any gay venue after the

weekend. And, in the case of shelf-life, a copy of Thud is likely to

have far more traffic through its pages than any monthly paid-for,

making it, and other gaypers, the most efficient means for advertisers

of leisure and consumer goods to reach one of the most profitable

markets in the UK. In total, 110,000 copies of free gay publications are

distributed every week by the three main free gay publishing houses.

Your advertising could appear in virtually every one of them for the

same price as a single page in a paid-for title.



Think different.



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