The Future of Gay Media By Wayne Besen I n one of the most important articles of the year, Walter Isaacson wrote in Time Magazine about the shredding of the newspaper business. With free content available online, people are dropping daily subscriptions and newsstand sales are declining. The only way for newspapers to remain profitable is through advertising revenue in the print and online editions. The problem with this business model, however, is that it leaves newsrooms beholden to advertising interests instead of readers. And, if the economy goes into a tailspin, precipitous drops in advertising can quickly lead to ruin. Isaacson says the way to save the news business is to move to a paradigm where newspapers go completely digital and readers pay directly for online content. For example, a web surfer who wants to read an individual story online can pay a nickel - or pay a larger fee for a weekly esubscription. The main obstacle is creating technology that makes reading e-news as pleasurable as the newspaper experience. Within a few years, however, new technology will make this possible, with several products scheduled to hit the market. If mainstream newspapers are having a difficult time, it should be no surprise that gay and lesbian publications are disappearing faster than a rabbit at a magic show. There is a long list of venerable GLBT publications that have recently vanished. Earlier this month, Gay City News reported, "the investment fund that owns the Washington Blade, the Southern Voice, Genre magazine, and other gay publications has been forced into receivership by the federal Small Business Administration (SBA), which will sell the fund's assets and distribute the proceeds to investors." When the technology reaches fruition, the GLBT media should embrace Isaacson's model. The gay community's top reporters do a superior job covering the news and offer in-depth analysis that can't be duplicated. I am willing to bet that people will pay for such content. The question is, will the publications themselves actually survive or will the GLBT media become a collection of enterprising freelance reporters who sell by the story? While most items would not bring a large bounty - there would likely be a couple of breaking stories that would pay the bills. For example, a blockbuster story with 250,000 downloads at a nickel per purchase would yield $25,000. Of course, new technology would also have to make it more difficult to cut and paste more than one paragraph per story. And, much like cameras that take pictures of those that run red lights, an electronic surveillance system that imposed small penalties - perhaps a dollar per infraction | March 2009 | Q View Northwest - Spokane Edition |