Just days after a glowing profile in the Dallas Morning News of Paul Colichman and Stephen Jarchow’s Regent/Here Media comes word from inside the company: it’s a sinking ship.
Multiple sources tell Queerty Colichman and Jarchow (pictured below) have gutted The Advocate‘s masthead in an attempt to stem the mag’s bleeding cash reserves. A money loser when Here Media bought it from PlanetOut Partners, they’ve been unable to turn things around since acquiring the title.
On Wednesday, an estimated 13 staffers were let go, including the magazine’s managing editor and 15-year veteran John Jameson was axed, along with art director Craig Edwards (his less experienced deputy was given the job, for much less cash), associate photo editor Meghan Quinn, and copy editor Teresa Morrison. On the business side, associate publisher Mike Phelps and production manager Brian Lindsey were let go. (We’re told Lindsey “sent out a naked picture of himself with a sock over his happy parts” upon receiving the news. Send it in if you have it, please.) UPDATE: We scored the photo! It’s here.
And here’s the news we’re hearing (but have not confirmed with the company): The Advocate will cease publication as a standalone magazine offered on the newsstand. Instead, it’ll be poly-bagged as an insert of the company’s fashion and lifestyle glossy Out. If true, it’s unclear whether current subscribers will still receive a standalone version of the magazine or have their subscriptions swapped for Out. UPDATE: We’re told that moving forward, The Advocate will, at least initially, appear as a 32-to-36-page-ish poly-bagged
insert “accompaniment” to Out, though it may remain a “separate” book from Out. It will not be sold on the newsstand, and it’s unclear whether new subscriptions to Advocate will be accepted, or whether they’ll be transferred to Out by default.
Meanwhile, at HIV Plus — which we’re told actually makes cash, because of all the Big Pharma ads — three members of the magazine’s tiny full-time staff were fired: managing editor Bob Adams, art director Raine Bascos, and fact checker Angela Bervidoro.
But if you’re still employed at Regent? The news isn’t very good for you, either. Human resources director Christin Dennis told staffers on a Sept. 25 conference all that employee payroll deductions for health-care insurance double immediately, and senior staffers would see even higher increases. It’s the only way Regent can “meet it’s financial targets,” Dennis said.
Some freelance and contract writers and photogs, meanwhile, have gone unpaid for months; some have threatened to stop working entirely until their balances are paid. (Don’t expect that to happen quickly: Editorial operations coordinator Rob Chin, who handled payments, was let go this week.)
While unfortunate, none of this downsizing is terribly surprising, and it’s hard to fault Regent/Here for what is, frankly, a shitty marketplace.
After laying off digital staffers earlier this year, the gay media giant continues to lose cash in almost every department. (Its film division, Regent Releasing, does generate positive cash flow, we’re told.) And gay print media certainly isn’t immune to the overall print downturn; advertisers and readers are fleeing, and the ad dollars that flow online aren’t enough to make up the difference.
Regent/Here’s porn unit, Unzipped Media, already shuttered two titles (err, they went “quarterly”), leaving only Unzipped. And HereTV, the company’s pay-TV service, may be “available” in 54 million homes, but an infinitesimal fraction of them actually subscribe to the $8/month network. (HereTV pays very little for its programming, however, which means it has lower costs than other networks.)
But even if Regent is helpless to the market climate, certainly they’re going about layoffs in the nicest way possible? Well …
At a company party in September to celebrate employee anniversaries, Jarchow joked about two honorees who were missing that day — because they had been “terminated.” Get it? (This, from a guy who had the company hire his daughter Boo when it acquired PlanetOut Partner’s LPI Media divison last year. Yes, she still has her job.)
As for Colichman? He “continues his useless prancing around the office, prattling about how awesome his ‘five-star’ websites are because they now contain video,” says one source with first-hand knowledge of the situation. (Worth noting: Colichman last month fired one of the company’s only videographers.) Those five-star websites he’s talking about include Gay.com, an excellent domain name for anyone in gay media, but one Regent has yet to effectively monetize. With most of Gay.com’s cash coming from chat subscribers, it continues to be plagued by technical issues and losing market share to sites like Manhunt.net.
This isn’t about stomping on the graves of Regent/Here staffers — who, if they’re good writers, should give Queerty a shout — but for a niche market (gay media) that’s already been heavily consolidated under Colichman and Jarchow’s roof, it’s indicative of what the future looks like: more doom and gloom. There’s no reason to celebrate here, even from a competitor’s standpoint: Bad news for The Advocate doesn’t (necessarily) mean good news for online properties like Queerty. And under editorial director Aaron Hicklin, both Out and The Advocate have become better publications that, dare we say, are worth reading.
It is curious, then, that Regent scored such a creampuff piece from a fellow dying publication just as they were firing a huge chunk of personnel.
(We called and left messages for Here Media publicity staffers Mark Umbach and Luis Lopez, as well as Here Media chief Colichman, and Regent general manager Stephen Macias, and are awaiting a response. We’ll let you know what we hear, if anything.)
Hilariously, Mr. Macias chose not to respond to us directly, by email or telephone call, but sent this letter (addressed to our edit director David Hauslaib) to the blog Kenneth In The 212. Macias responded in the comments, though because of a comments spam filter created after hate-filled rhetoric was repeatedly submitted from IP addresses belonging to Regent, his reply was not immediately posted; it’s since been published below. We’d offer a line-by-line translation, but commenter Mike beat us to it. Though we do love Macias’s new term “print expression” to refer to a magazine.
I wanted to take a moment to speak to the inaccuracies of your story and to the strength of The Advocate brand.
Clearly, 2009 has been one of the most challenging economic periods for all businesses in the United States. Moving strong, lean businesses forward in 2010 requires that business models adapt. This company cares very much about the history of the most important LGBT national news brand and is making careful and thoughtful decisions to ensure its survival and to position it for growth. We are reorganizing departments to make that happen. That said, we are all very grateful for the work our departing staff members contributed‹just as we are of those who continue to work with the company.
First, The Advocate staff has not been “gutted” as you write. We are, however, making strategic and sometimes difficult staff changes in order to support all iterations of The Advocate brand. The print expression (which will vary in size from month to month as it always has), will continue on its monthly schedule. Our website (which has quadrupled its traffic in the past 16 months) will be relaunched early next year with enhanced technology that will add dimension to the breaking news and features stories our editors and reporters are already delivering on a several-times-a-day basis.
So what does that mean for The Advocate reader? We’ll still ask tough questions of the White House press secretary around issues like DADT, we’ll still deliver online live video coverage of key events like today’s passage of the Ryan White Care Act, and we’ll report critical news around topics like the Defense of Marriage Act — only now you’ll get more of it (in a more timely manner) than ever before.
The Advocate brand will also expand, as previously announced, to include a monthly hour-long television magazine that will be broadcast on our sister brands here! TV and Gay.com and of course on Advocate.com. We are currently in production, and on schedule, for the show’s February launch. Modeled after CBS’s tremendously esteemed 60 Minutes, this program will explore the critical issues of the day through the Advocate lens.
All Advocate subscribers will continue to receive their print editions of the magazine, and editor in chief Jon Barrett (who is still employed with the company despite an earlier Queerty report that he had been fired) has been promoted to Advocate editorial director overseeing all expressions of extensions of the brand.
With regard to HIV Plus magazine, it will continue to be published under the leadership of editor in chief Michael Edwards. In fact, while Queerty was propagating this inaccurate story, our staff was working closely with AIDS Project Los Angeles in preparation for a fundraiser for the group (in conjunction with HIV Plus) at the home of our CEO Paul Colichman.
Speaking of Mr. Colichman and our chairman, Stephen Jarchow. These two men have invested a great deal of time, energy, and resources not only into building a vibrant, collaborative workplace but into rebuilding, sustaining, and growing some of our community’s most important brands. Mr. Jarchow has passed on his commitment to the LGBT community to his lesbian daughter, Boo, who in addition to working at The Advocate and on Shewired.com, was an instrumental young leader in organizing last month’s March on Washington. I hope other young people follow her good example as we all need to part of the solution for LGBT equality. One final note on your personal attacks: Mr. Colichman takes great umbrage to the characterization that he prances around the office; he pictures himself much more as an optimistic skipper. We have that from “multiple sources.” [Ed: Noted.]
Here Media continues to evolve and integrate its many properties with care and respect in challenging times. In fact, The Advocate — throughout its four decades of service — is a great model when it comes to embracing change. It began in 1967 as a mimeographed newsletter, evolved into a broadsheet newspaper, transitioned into a tabloid, and then blossomed in its current glossy iteration. The Advocate will continue to grow — especially online and on air — while maintaining its high standards in print.
On Wednesday, thousands of Advocate readers went to Advocate.com to watch live video coverage of long-overdue passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. No other news site in the world thought the moment was important enough to cover live, but The Advocate did — and the Advocate will continue to do so.
Senior Vice President, Regent Media, LLC