Earlier this year Logo announced it would be shifting its programming strategy to address what it sees as the broadening interests of the LGBT community.
For the first time, the network green-lighted a slate of shows without a gay or lesbian lead—reality series like Wiseguys and Design My Dog. We’ve seen hints of this change in focus on the recent NewNowNext Awards, which seemed, well, less gay than in years past.
But it’ll really come to fruition tonight with the debut of Eden’s World, starring Eden Wood, the itty-bitty starlet who burst out of Toddlers and Tiaras.
But how is this new direction affecting Logo’s high-profile Web properties? Will AfterElton stay true to its origins or start doing recaps of Storage Wars? It depends on who you ask.
Logo’s current-events blog, 365gay News, launched when Logo did in 2005, but when it shuttered last September, editor Jenny Vanasco said Logo “has shifted its online strategy and so the site is closing.”
Logo general manager Lisa Sherman says the decision was made because LGBT issues were being covered so extensively in the mainstream media: “Gay news is really national news, and we couldn’t deliver to our audience. It was better served elsewhere.”
So instead of making it the go-to place for LGBT news, the network pulled the plug.
But, Sherman says, Logo’s remaining websites are still going strong: “AfterElton and AfterEllen are widening the filter they use, but they’re going to stay true to their origins. NewNowNext will probably be a little broader—cover a wider range of music, travel and fashion.”
Speaking of travel, that beat used to be covered by TripOutGayTravel.com, a site a 2009 press release said was “dedicated to all things travel for the LGBT community,” with articles like “The World’s 10 Best Gay Beaches,” and “The Most Historic LGBT Places in the U.S.”
Clicking on TripOutGay now takes you to NewNowNext’s travel channel, which does have some gay-specific articles but offers more of the kind of stories you’d see on a straight site, like “Five Tips for Fighting Jet Lag” and “Dine Like You’re Aboard The Titanic.”
AfterElton.com, which began as an independent site devoted to gay men in television and pop culture, was acquired by Logo in 2006, along with sister site AfterEllen.com. Dennis Ayers, AfterElton’s current editor-in- chief, says the site was already adapting to a more mainstream audience before Logo announced its new strategy: “About 45% of our readers are women, and over half of them come from households with children. We aren’t just a site for gay men, and haven’t been for some time,” he tells Queerty. “Logo’s programming shift did not come as a surprise to us. We knew it was under discussion, and we’ve been broadening our scope of coverage for well over a year now. In large part that broadening has already been accomplished and we likely would have made those changes regardless of Logo’s programming direction.”
To Ayers, AfterElton’s shift reflects the LGBT community’s success at registering on America’s radar. “When we started out in 2005, our focus was to promote the representation of gay men in popular culture,” he explains. “That meant interviews with gay male celebrities, actors playing gay roles, reviews of projects with gay themes, and so on. We applied a litmus test: how does this relate to gay-male visibility?”
But he says a lot has changed since then, and gay men are visible throughout the culture. “Our regular readers have broader interests and we’ve tried, successfully I think, to respond to that.” Examples of that shift are already visible on AfterElton, with recaps of gay-ish shows like GCB and Smash sandwiched between blurbs about Human Centipede 3 and Triplets, the Eddie Murphy vehicle that’s a sequel to Twins.
Money is possibly the biggest factor for Logo’s recent demographic shift. According to Joe Del Hierro, producer of Logo’s Ride, Transamerican Love Story and The Big Gay Sketch Show, “They need more viewers, so they need to appeal to a broader mass audience to get the numbers up, so they can charge more for ad revenues.” That’s as true for the Web as it is for television.
Following Sherman’s theory of cultural Darwinism, sites like AfterElton and NewNowNext will eventually become copies of their mainstream counterparts. Or will they face extinction like 365Gay News and TripOut?
Ayers asserts AfterElton, at least, is staying put: “Let’s just say reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated. We’ve been alternately amused and exasperated by some of the weird gossip that’s been floating: “You’re all going to be fired!”, “You’re being sold!”, ‘Logo is shuttering the site in March!’. We’re not going anywhere and have actually grown a lot this past year. Logo is happy, we’re happy. All is good.”
The question remains: Even if Logo’s sites are still here, will they still be queer?
Only time will tell.