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SHOCK: Blade Publisher Window Media Closes (Updated)

windowmediacollage

Well, it’s a “shock” only if you haven’t been paying attention to the gay media world of late. Window Media — which publishes the Southern Voice, Washington Blade, South Florida Blade, 411 Magazine, Houston Voice, David Magazine, and the already-dead Genre — abruptly closed up shop over the weekend.

With dozens of employees across the country, the publisher told its Atlanta employees it was closing by posting a brief notice on its front door. The websites of its publications remain online, though fresh content is absent. And the decision appears to affect all of Window’s publications, not just the Atlanta-based titles.

sovo_building_logo_full_v

It appears this is the final chapter in the long-storied history of Window Media, after failing to survive federal receivership, the exit of (fib-telling) publisher David Unger, and a failed attempt to unload the company’s properties.

In July we relayed a report that the Small Business Association — which placed Window Media in receivership after the company failed to meet the federal agency’s lending requirements — could shut down the company by the end of that month. It appears Window survived a little big longer than imagined.

So many LGBT Americans turned to Window’s publications — often before they were absorbed into the publisher’s umbrella — for the latest digest on local gay news, events, and attacks on the community. These papers were, unarguably, invaluable and this website and its readers have benefited directly from them. When it comes to hyper-local reporting, the various Blade titles were the biggest game in town.

While the executives running the company may not be, the titles will surely be missed.

The note posted at Window’s Atlanta offices:

It is with GREAT regret that we must inform you that effective immediately, the operations of Window Media, LLC and Unite Media, LLC have closed down.

Please return to this office on WEDNESDAY, November 18th, 2009 at 11:00 AM to collect personal belongings and to receive information on your separation stipulations. Please bring boxes and/or containers that will allow you to collect all your personal belongings at one time.

Regretfully,

Steve Myers
Mike Kitchens

Less than an hour ago, Window posted this to its Facebook page Southern Voice editor Laura Douglas-Brown posted this to Facebook:

With deepest regret, as editor of SoVo, I have to tell you that we arrived at the office to learn that our parent company, Window Media, has shut down. While the 20 years of SoVo have come to an end, our civil rights movement is only beginning. I am personally grateful to all of the staff, and to all of you who have had the courage to share your stories. It has been the honor of my life to help you tell them.

UPDATE: The Washington Blade is among the papers closing, the paper confirms via Twitter. But its editor Kevin Naff, who was named editor of Genre as the magazine was folding, tells Politico there’s something independent in the works: “The Blade staff is united and ready to continue the paper’s long-standing mission. The first meeting for our new venture is Tuesday and we welcome the community’s input as we move forward.”

UPDATE 2: We hear Window’s means of notifying employees — locking them out of their offices — didn’t just go down in Atlanta, but in Ft. Lauderdale and Washington D.C. as well.

UPDATE 3: Having just celebrated 40 years of publishing, this is what the Washington Blade looks like now:

Blog_Blade-3

Amanda Hess has more details as the staff packs up.

By:           editor editor
On:           Nov 16, 2009
Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , ,
  • 43 Comments
    • hardmannyc
      hardmannyc

      Are you telling me the Washington Blade, 411, etc. are all shut down like that? I find that hard to believe. Even in this lousy print environment, they were making money. More, please!

      Nov 16, 2009 at 10:05 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mark Reed
      Mark Reed

      Like I said – keep an eye on Dallas. Sign-up for EqualityAcrossAmerica, too. We have the plan and the connections. Soldier on warriors.

      Nov 16, 2009 at 10:22 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Peter
      Peter

      Are any of us really surprised to be honest? Washington Blade is a HUGE loss and I’m sure someone will buy that publication…David Magazine was also a substantial size as well so there’s a possible publication there….

      Nov 16, 2009 at 10:49 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hyhybt
      hyhybt

      If they were making money, they wouldn’t have closed.

      Nov 16, 2009 at 10:53 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • dctellit
      dctellit

      Washington was doomed as soon as they replaced Waybourn; replacing him with the most leader-less minions imaginable, especially this last go around.

      Nov 16, 2009 at 10:59 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Peter
      Peter

      Also how much of this was due less to the economy/bottom line and was due to the Small Business Administration…

      Nov 16, 2009 at 11:17 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Lady Ga-Gasp
      Lady Ga-Gasp

      There was a time not to long ago, that you could stumble upon a little gay bar, usually on the “wrong side of the tracks” in some southern hamlet. We’re talking Columbus Georgia, or Tupelo Mississippi here people. Little clubs in towns that have gay people and for whom these are the main social nexus. When you would come into the bar, there was usually a shelf (or it was in the back, by the cigarette machines and bathrooms) with a small stack of publications on it. The Southern Voice was always one of those. It was a journalistic thread, yes Atlanta-centric, but with local ads and some local coverage as well. You could sit at the bar, order a drink and read it. You had a place to be among friends, and something to read while you hung out. That this small feature of small town gay bars in the South is potentially no more, is very, very sad.

      Nov 16, 2009 at 11:30 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • DEEPTHROAT
      DEEPTHROAT

      THE FLORIDA PUBLICATIONS WILL CONTINUE TO PUBLISH!!!! THIS WAS IN THE WORKS FOR QUITE SOME TIME. MULTIMEDIA PLATFORMS, LLC WILL IMMEDIATELY CONTINUE TO PUBLISH THE MAGAZINE AND NEWSPAPER, UNDER NEW NAMES STARTING IMMEDIATELY. VIRTUALLY ALL EMPLOYEES OF 411 AND SF BLADE WILL BE HIRED AND THE PUBLICATIONS WILL EXPERIENCE A NAME CHANGE ONLY. 411 MAGAZINE WILL OUT THIS WEEK AND THE NEW MAGAZINE, MARK’S LIST MAGAZINE WILL BE DISTRIBUTED FOR THANKSGIVING. THE FORMAT WILL BE THE SAME. ONLY THE NAME WILL CHANGE.

      Nov 16, 2009 at 11:42 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • FakeName
      FakeName

      “If they were making money, they wouldn’t have closed.”

      Not true. Individual organs of the publisher may have been making money but if the overall company isn’t profitable there’s only so long that the company can continue to operate. I have no idea whether the Blade or David was making a profit but the company obviously wasn’t if it was forced into receivership.

      I feel a twinge of nostalgia for SoVo. Back in the day when I was trying my hand at freelancing they were the first big outfit that bought one of my pieces.

      Nov 16, 2009 at 11:44 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Peter
      Peter

      Is that raelly smart to change the name of a publication? You lose all existing branding, good will, etc. Hell, I would keep the name as is…

      Nov 16, 2009 at 11:46 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cam
      Cam

      The Blade really stopped getting as much readership here after Windows took them over. They went from a fantastic local paper covering local news with some larger national stories mixed in, to a paper that only seemed to cover the same exact stories that were in Southern Voice etc… A lot of what made the Blade interesting to the local community just didn’t seem to be there anymore. I’ll miss the old Blade but Metro Weekly in DC and Baltimore Out Loud and Gay Life in Maryland long ago seemed to have taken over what the Blade used to do.

      Nov 16, 2009 at 11:58 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Juan
      Juan

      I met my partner via the personals section in one of these papers. It is unfortunate that the papers are closing. Maybe it is because of the empty suits that were more interested in building an empire and making lots of money off of the gay community. I would not put the blame on the writers or the editors who did a great job overall. The articles and editorials were good. The financial management was poor. There was this strange desire to make acquisitions of a large number of newspapers in different cities. That is a bad idea right from the start. Different city, different market. There is not efficiency of scale. Quite the opposite. A big unwieldy beast is what they made.

      I was only able to meet my partner due to a loophole. For a brief period of time, maybe a couple of months, the paper permitted post office boxes to be posted in the personals section. This allowed me to receive letters.

      However, they soon changed that policy, requiring phone calls to a 1-900 number that cost $2.99 per minute billed to one’s credit card. Imagine, you are looking for a partner and have to pay $2.99 a minute just to hear some stranger’s voice. A conversation might run you $20. Needless to say, I did not recommend the gay newspapers to anyone that I knew. They became completely useless for the purpose of connecting almost overnight. All because they were intent upon extracting the maximum amount of funds from lonely gays. Since the gay newspaper no longer served any practical purpose, it became obsolete. The papers were grasping, greedy and 95% advertising anyway, due to the myopic and selfish policies instituted by the empty suits.

      A CEO may know something about business. But keep them away from the product, unless you want the product to be mangled.

      Nov 16, 2009 at 12:39 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Keith Kimmel
      Keith Kimmel

      Insane.

      Shitty way to treat your employees. Lock the doors and throw a sign on the door saying please bring a box for your shit, the implication being that there will be plenty of security on hand to protect the executives from any backlash their employees may want to deliver. That’s almost as bad as when Polaroid fired me by sending a fax to my home office few years back.

      I’m glad I work for myself now. While it is often a struggle and a headache (usually both at the same time) I don’t have to worry about this kinda shit anymore.

      Nov 16, 2009 at 12:45 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jay
      Jay

      It doesn’t matter that they will be re-opening as two new publications. I feel bad for the staff, but come on. One of the new owners is the former owner of Buzz Magazine here in South Florida. He ran that into the ground, who’s to say he wont do the same with these two “new” publications. Its going to be hard and they have their work cut out for them. I wonder how many advertisers will go to Hotspots. They’ve been around for a long time, longer than most.

      Nov 16, 2009 at 12:47 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Gee Thx Guys
      Gee Thx Guys

      “Washington was doomed as soon as they replaced Waybourn”

      Actually this all was started by him. This is just the latest troubling news in Windows story. Debt loaded up, then a self-hating conservative male prostitute shoved in our faces as an editorial columnist, then they pissed off every local community figure of note, treated beloved staffers not in the best ways, now this, bad scene from the start. Check it:

      http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/display.php?id=23570

      Nov 16, 2009 at 1:11 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Chris Cash
      Chris Cash

      Window Media did not post on Facebook. It was Laura Douglas-Brown, the editor of Southern Voice. She was speaking for herself, not Window Media. I am the founder of Southern Voice and was publisher and editor until we sold to Window Media in 1997. We were the first publication Window bought in its attempt to create a “chain” of gay pubs. I did not know that at the time and thought I was selling to locals (Chris Crain) who wanted to simply carry on with the good work SoVo had been doing for 10 years. Although the recession has knocked a lot of publications to its knees, there was more than lack of advertising that brought on this devastating day for the community. Read Steve Weinstein’s article in Edge Boston for some pretty good background info. He has some of it right.

      Nov 16, 2009 at 1:15 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Keith Kimmel
      Keith Kimmel

      Well, this should be a lesson to owners of independent publications. Usually, things DO NOT get better when you sell out to larger corporate types that are wanting to create chains. In fact, its often better not to sell at all. All of these Rupert Murdoch wannabees have cost this community alot of quality publications over there years.

      Nov 16, 2009 at 1:38 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Lady Ga-Gasp
      Lady Ga-Gasp

      http://www.edgeboston.com/index.php?ch=news&sc=&sc2=news&sc3=&id=99053

      For those who wish to read the aforementioned article…

      Nov 16, 2009 at 1:52 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jason
      Jason

      WM is not about journalism, it’s about using people to make money, look at the track record.

      Just because the money is gone, doesn’t mean you won’t see new “front-men” for the same people involved with Avalon or Window, taking advantage of anyone they can find – again!

      Nov 16, 2009 at 2:24 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Takonta
      Takonta

      Juan: I met my wife in the personals of the Washington Blade. It is disheartening to think that this paper and others like it are no longer with us. It is like a loved one passing away. It is a shame that Window Media and that David Unger purchased and destroyed the papers. Chris was the backbone to that paper and when Unger came in and insisted on having everything his way – even when choices he made were not only wrong but bad leadership, and detrimental to the paper — we all suffered.

      Nov 16, 2009 at 3:29 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Gee Thx Guys
      Gee Thx Guys

      Interesting article about this in Atlanta Journal Constitution. Choice quotes:

      “…Evans, whose company buys advertising for the gay media around the nation, insists the issue isn’t advertising…Window Media has been in trouble for years, said Evans, who said he and others expected the publications to be shuttered years ago. “I’m surprised it (closing of Window Media publications) didn’t happen sooner,” he said. “Window Media has been through this process of gobbling up and buying everybody,” he said. “Now the chickens have come home to roost.”

      http://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta/southern-voice-longtime-gay-199719.html

      So, folks, we have another tale of egos (David Unger, Chris Crain, William Waybourn) wanting a bunch of brand names on their wall, pushing their luck until OURS ran out as a community. And the workers are left with a note on the door, locks changed. No recourse since Windows management stopped a union attempt. See page 3, “Blade Employees Battle for Union Recognition”

      http://www.newsguild.org/gr/pdf/010615.pdf

      Nov 16, 2009 at 5:04 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Peter
      Peter

      Chapter 7 bankruptcy – liquidation vs. reorganization…

      Nov 16, 2009 at 6:41 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Lady Ga-Gasp
      Lady Ga-Gasp

      Oh yeah, going union would have done the trick. Not.

      Nov 16, 2009 at 6:58 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Leona T
      Leona T

      Going union would have prevented people who make a pittance in the first place from showing up to work and being told grab a box and get out by 3pm and oh it’s payday well maybe we’ll talk about that later, call us, but the phone is disconnected mmmbubye now.

      Sure you would have loved that for yourself, Lady Ga-ass, so that’s why you think it’s ok for gay journalists. (I would add “not” but I don’t do 1990s stuff). You sound like an ambassador from the Republic of Douchebaggery, what you wouldn’t like is ok for others. Maybe you should have been part of Windows mgmt.

      Nov 16, 2009 at 7:20 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • dctellit
      dctellit

      Crain and Waybourn haven’t been there for years, so any reference to them is pointed in the wrong direction. The folks who took over on a local level, some 3 years ago only are the culprits here. Did the economy help? No, it didn’t, however, the nail in the coffin was the recent (the past 2-3 years) hires of marketing personnel who were clueless on top of publishers who were equally in the dark.

      Nov 16, 2009 at 7:53 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Leona T
      Leona T

      Waybourn Crain and Unger hired and/or retained and worked with most of the people who were elevated and “took over on a local level” after the first two gentlemen were, ah, no longer with the establishment. That means, DCTellit, that either the people you’re trying to saddle with blame on here were just more bad hires by the Three Horsemen of Gay Media’s Apocalypse, and blame therefore remains with them, or they were good people who couldn’t right the listing ship they inherited.

      Anyone worth their LGBT salt in DC knows the second viewpoint to be accurate.

      And your emphasis on marketing is interesting, given that the paper’s editorial reputation was the most urgent surgery required in recent years, and is the basis for any pub’s ability to market itself.

      Did ya see any Jeff Gannon guest editorials lately? Nope, you didn’t. See more federal and city policy ink recently? Yes, you did. The editorial triage was underway, but probably too late to correct the business hole dug at Windows inception and accelerated with additional purchases, as Evans of Rivendell pointed out.

      Nov 16, 2009 at 8:54 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Barb Robison
      Barb Robison

      Hi Gang, It Sadden’s me that the Blade will be, no longer….I came to DC in 1974 and have retired to,some what rural,Lake Anna, Va..I now, rely on friends to bring me the Blade,(the past 3yrs.).This was my connection to what was going on in “Our Community,Our Family”.I grew-up with the Blade…..It was my connection to Parties,Prides,and HRC functions…I know it has become very commercial but it was “Our magazine”…Our Choice….I welcome someone to bring a monthly mailed newspaper ….That doesn’t show who; we would all like to be, but, who we are…That keeps me and others in small towns informed..Send in essays that speak to the gay hearts… Something that we are united about across the states and the world as a community…I will miss the Blade.. I ALSO, believe we need to support each other in our businesses…Some may call it a boycott…We did it with Anita Bryant and we need to take it to a larger scale…I live 82 miles South/West of DC at Lake Anna..I’m a GAY real estate agent and would appreciate your business…This isn’t for an Ad!! But WE Need To Think About Who WE Give Our Business To!!!! Community,First……….Peace-Out……………………Barb Robison

      Nov 16, 2009 at 9:00 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Lady Ga-Gasp
      Lady Ga-Gasp

      Leona, I appreciate your clear familiarity with the topic (if not your vitriolic tone), but lets talk facts. Lets start with financials.

      52 issues.
      Assume a really robust ad page price of $2000 per ad page.
      Assume 25 ad pages per issue (conglomerated of all ad types).
      50,000 x 52 = $2,600,000.00 gross revenue. High estimate.

      Its a free paper.

      Printing costs are at least $750,000.
      Distribution costs are at least $500,000.
      Circulation costs are minimal, because its free – but still, for advertisers lets assume its $100,000.
      Offices are maybe (low) $150,000, but I suspect more.
      SG&A, again lets be cheap here: $200,000.
      Other odd expenses, again lets be simple and cheap… $100,000.

      So far we’ve spent $1.8 million.

      That leaves a grand total of $800,000 for salaries, health coverage, travel… and all the other stuff that would probably make these expenses much higher (especially SG&A, and especially if you toss in legal). Throw in running a web site and voila! You’re out of business. This is what real media businesses (not staff with dreams of grandeur) face. The costs of going web suck the profit out of the old media balance sheet. Its a burn-rate game and the odds favor burning out.

      Nov 16, 2009 at 10:19 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Keith Kimmel
      Keith Kimmel

      No. 22 · Peter

      “Chapter 7 bankruptcy – liquidation vs. reorganization…”

      Chapter 7 is liquidation.
      Chapter 11 is reoganization.

      Chapter 7 = Party Over.

      Nov 16, 2009 at 11:43 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Leona T
      Leona T

      Lady: Like a lot of people here, I know what the Blade’s Window overseers did around town to burn nearly everyone that was essential for a “community” publication to survive the hard times. The people at the Blade more recently were trying to fix all that bad inherited strategery. And let’s not forget, your jollies on the calculator aside, some publications are surviving the tough times, such as Metro Weekly, and a number of non-gay community publications too, or Gay City News up in NY.

      And far better informed experts than you, or me, are placing blame on how the company was put together in the first place: people like Evans at Rivendell, and the writers at Washington City Paper, and Gay City News, and Edge Boston, and the former publisher of SoVo, and the list goes on. Your calculator and single opinion is no match for all those voices. Here’s some more:

      http://www.gaycitynews.com/articles/2009/11/16/gay_city_news/news/doc4b0189a1001bc068952770.txt

      http://www.gaycitynews.com/articles/2009/11/16/gay_city_news/news/doc4b01ee9e6d02c531792944.txt

      Nov 17, 2009 at 12:50 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • mucklucky777
      mucklucky777

      As one of the many, many folks who wrote for these folks, and who never EVER got paid, I say: Good Riddance! I can’t speak for all of the publications, but Southern Voice was well known for not paying folks. Short sifting your gay and lesbians writers isn’t gonna get you very good Karma.

      Nov 17, 2009 at 2:07 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • spindoc
      spindoc

      Talk to gay businesses around DC and you are likely to find many that were burned by the Blade. Metro Weekly has replaced them by doing local DC area news and stories and being much more friendly to work with. They wouldn’t have been able to do that if the Blade hadn’t abdicated it’s local reporting duties as all other Windows publications seemed to.

      Nov 17, 2009 at 7:28 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • dctellit
      dctellit

      Leona T – You are so sadly mistaken about Window. If their strategy was to fix anything over the years, it didn’t work. As a DC business owner, I never saw any efforts of any kind, except the dismal (and failed) 1/2 attempt to bring the gay olympics to DC. More recently, it was EVEN worse than before, yes, WORSE. Metro Weekly, has, by far, over the years, surfaced as the gay and lesbian local leader in news and entertainment – period. Enough said.

      Nov 17, 2009 at 8:05 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Leona T
      Leona T

      Tellit: You’re not hearing me. I agree with you about Metro Weekly, and glad you raised that example. They are bigger and better than ever. They remained independent, instead of falling into the embrace of the people who created Window out of debt, arrogance and faulty business assumptions. The implosion started the day Window bought the Blade and other pubs. We can argue about how much worse it was during one or another set of months during Window’s ownership, but the “bottom line,” pun intended, is a disappearing act.

      Nov 17, 2009 at 9:30 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jason T.
      Jason T.

      There are rumors in Dallas about our paper – The Dallas Voice – nearing bankruptcy. It’s mostly an advertising rag with bars pics and calendar of events, etc. Not much “news.” I think some of the old timers still read it.

      Nov 17, 2009 at 10:37 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hardmannyc
      hardmannyc

      Lady Ga: Appreciate your taking the time to do the math, but one flaw: No way the WashBlade would have gotten $2K from local advertisers even for a 4-color full page. Back cover, maybe. Inside, probably not much more than $1050. Remember, it only had 23K circ.

      Nov 17, 2009 at 10:54 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Gary P
      Gary P

      Nice way to close, burning their advertisers and employees in one fell swoop!

      Nov 17, 2009 at 10:55 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Lady Ga-Gasp
      Lady Ga-Gasp

      Hardmannyc, my sample budget was for illustration purposes, and chock full of conditionals around the numbers being generous one way or the other. That’s what “assume a really robust” and “high estimate” means. Your circ figures surprise me though. I had no idea they were that low. Goodness.

      Nov 17, 2009 at 11:27 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Peter
      Peter

      @HARDMANNYC – My BF used to work for HX and they had similar price points and they would sell them for pennies on the dollar while they would complain at the same time about how much it cost to advertise the expos in other cities. He left them a year before they went under and is much happier elsewhere.

      Nov 17, 2009 at 11:55 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Minime
      Minime

      I honestly cannot believe the SBA loaned $38million dollars to any media enterprise. It’s just too much money. If Avalon needed that, they should have raised it publicly. The winners are the people who sold their properties to Avalon, so congratulations to Chris Crain and any others who got out while the getting was good…

      Nov 17, 2009 at 12:23 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hardmannyc
      hardmannyc

      Lady Ga: Yes, I was shocked, too. 23K in a metro market of 2M or so. Even at a 5% gay population (probably conservative for a town like DC), that’s not even 1% of the population.

      Nov 17, 2009 at 4:35 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • JonathanHasHadIt
      JonathanHasHadIt

      The South Florida Blade was not worth using in a bird cage. No wonder it tanked, like so much of gay press, it sucked. Good riddance.

      Nov 18, 2009 at 11:35 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Rex
      Rex

      The publishers of Bay Windows in Boston have an interesting take on this. They call it greed. I call it hubris.

      http://www.baywindows.com/index.php?ch=opinion&sc=editorial&sc2=news&sc3=&id=99195

      Nov 18, 2009 at 11:25 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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