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What’s This Former Advocate Editor Bitching About?

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Judy Wieder, the one-time editor-in-chief of The Advocate, has some harsh words for the magazine’s current leadership at Regent Media. After reading our report of the magazine’s dismal future, Wieder has a single question for the rag’s publisher: “What the f happened?”

It’s no secret that as The Advocate has changed hands, from LPI Media to PlanetOut Partners to Regent Media, it’s profitability and substance have dwindled with it. Wieder blames the owners, and that’s a logical leap to make: The people in charge of the magazine are, by definition, responsible for its success or failure.

But what Wieder — who served as Advocate EIC for seven years and was editorial director of that magazine, as well as Out, The OutTraveler, HIVPlus, and Alyson Books — misses is that not only has ownership changed, so too has the marketplace. And she’s casting herself of a relic of a bygone era. “Am I to assume that younger LGBTs today simply had no interest in reading about the significance of Adam Lambert soaring his way through American Idol?,” she writes in the Huffington Post. “Or later learning from the one-time only must-read publication in the community what it was like for him in an exclusive interview? They’d rather pick up Details and watch him making out and posing with women? Pleeeeeease! Just shoot me! I don’t believe it.”

Believe it, lady, because the generation of gay men and women who once turned to The Advocate to find stories about people who are like them now have 17,000 new places to turn. And as the gays go mainstream, the idea that a niche publication is the only way to serve their interests is a fallacy. So, too, is the notion that all young gay Americans, who are voracious consumers of media otherwise, even have a gay magazine on their radar when coming out and establishing their identity is — while not entirely carefree — increasingly less of a big deal within families and society.

Wieder, meanwhile, says she “refuse[s] to get into another deadening debate about print media vs online, blah, blah, snore. That’s distracting, designed to send you flying wildly past the point.”

But it isn’t, and it won’t. And it’s confusing to see a woman who once worked in print media to not understand how expensive producing it can be. “I’m talking about great stories!,” she continues. “You need raw facts, truths, great photo journalism, current people and events that everyone is dying to learn more about–and then you need the vision and creativity it takes to draw in what’s essential for the story (a person, an interview, a lost clue, a new piece of research) and you need the courage to deliver it.”

Not courage, Wieder. Money. And that’s something print magazines are losing fast, even outside the gay market.

We understand the argument: The Advocate is no longer the staple of gay America’s media diet, partly because, less and less, it serves their interests. And Weiner knows more about the inner workings of the magazine during her era more than we. But to say the magazine is crumbling because of what it’s devolved into misses the elephant that’s stampeding through the room: Unless Regent wants to subsidize it further, The Advocate cannot survive in its current form.

The Advocate has delivered its share of missteps, as staffers there who have posted to Queerty can attest. But struggling to ride a marketplace that no longer has any room for it is not a wise battle. And nor is advocating it be fought.

Give up and die? No. Grow and change with the media climate? Yes.

By:           editor editor
On:           Nov 4, 2009
Tagged: , , , , , , , ,
  • 15 Comments
    • dan cullinane
      dan cullinane

      It’s actually Judy Wieder, not Judy Weiner. Beyond that, good arguments on both sides.

      Nov 4, 2009 at 11:03 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hardmannyc
      hardmannyc

      It’s Wieder. W I E D E R. I think it’s kind of funny that she’s looking down from Mt. Olympus on the mess the Advocate’s in when in fact she was responsible for turning it into a superficial celebrity rag.

      Nov 4, 2009 at 11:06 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cam
      Cam

      I stopped reading the Advocate a long time ago, it became a humorless finger wagging magazine that seemed to preach rather than inform, then I noticed it seemed to become a gay version of “People” magazine, but since there weren’t that many Out celebs and the mag never outed any of them there was really nothing for it to write about.

      Nov 4, 2009 at 11:18 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Puck
      Puck

      I think she is right on. Coming the Advocate was my source for a community bigger than my city. Since than its gone downhill, it wasn’t as relevant, it stopped making me care. MY fondest hope is someone else buys it quick and brings it back to what it was. the source of all Gay news for North America. Cuz to put it bluntly the gay news blogs don’t cut, there for the quick and easy, the advocate was about depth

      Nov 4, 2009 at 11:23 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Aesthete
      Aesthete

      I was struck dumb with disappointment at the news of The Advocate’s closing. (Which it is, more or less, since it will be an insert in its next incarnation.) I can’t stand reading the “new, improved” OUT and looked at The Advocate as the Time or Newsweek of the gay community. Whether or not there are other outlets for the news it carries, I still feel it was, for the most part, a vibrant, intelligent, thoughtful publication, one that I never failed to snatch off the newsstand and devour. I’m sad to see The Advocate gutted and made less than its once admirable self.

      Nov 4, 2009 at 12:03 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Erick
      Erick

      BTW, I havent seen Queerty respond, one way or the other, to the direct challenge Regent has made to their last report regarding its folding.

      Nov 4, 2009 at 12:19 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Lance Rockland
      Lance Rockland

      The Advocate RIP (1968-2009).

      Nov 4, 2009 at 12:27 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hardmannyc
      hardmannyc

      If she’s complaining about sloppy journalism, maybe she should quit referring to Aaron Hicklin and “Aaron Hickman.”

      Stone, meet glass house.

      Nov 4, 2009 at 12:54 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Nickadoo
      Nickadoo

      @Erick: Yeah, I’d assumed this was gonna be a response to Jon Barrett’s rant against Queerty.

      Nov 4, 2009 at 1:03 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Lady Ga-Gasp
      Lady Ga-Gasp

      Its a riveting read, the Weider piece on the Huffpo. Thanks for noting it, otherwise I wouldn’t have seen it.

      Much of it rings true, albeit from a specific, biased point of view. But I like the fact that there is a point of view to it, instead of the usual edgeless rounded corner banality that a lot of coverage has become.

      Some thoughts: Colichman is clearly a genial, ‘super-smart in the ways he’s smart and aware of the ways he’s not smart’ type of guy. He’s made his money over the years and isn’t going to let anyone or anything flatten the spring in his step. But he delegates judgement in situations by co-mingling the passionate parties and staying out of the dirty business of making the call. He’s like a gay Canadian liberal Ronald Reagan in this respect. And we all know what happened with Ed Meese & Co. under that regime.

      In many respects, the fate of Advocate was cast back in the 90’s, and under Weider’s watch. The magazine business is full of notoriously thin-skinned, cerebral people for whom the sheer wackness of the web was a frightening, muffled monster, best kept behind bars and fed by a few brave souls, but never to be set free, for fear it would eat whole the fragile infrastructure of decades of journalistic and publishing habit.

      Every interval that might have otherwise provided for an opportunity for reflection, and maybe even the much needed ‘revolution’ in a hide bound magazine culture was interrupted by a corporate take over and a cultural upheaval that took precedence over the urgent need to go internet. And each time the dust settled it was time for the next upheaval.

      What one senses in Weider’s writing is how close she came to ‘getting” how to parlay a magazine off of its evil web twin, how to make news and break the news you’re making. How to get everyone to come to your party, each for their own reason.

      The answer is out there, as the saying goes, but there is probably not enough fuel left in this particular craft to get to that answer and return home in one piece.

      Nov 4, 2009 at 1:49 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Malonna Lewise Verocious Chickoni
      Malonna Lewise Verocious Chickoni

      Ms. Weider is a hypocrite and lives in a very fogged-up glass house. Judy is greatly responsible for both the Advocates current ‘corporate’ state (oh those golden years of endless vacations and hyped-up spending were fun weren’t they?) and the rather fast initiation into the world of mushy, bland wonder bread celebrity content.

      Nov 4, 2009 at 2:54 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • randy
      randy

      Apparently, that was a rough draft not intended for publication:

      Before I begin, I need to say that an earlier VERY rough draft of this piece accidentally got posted. That never should have happened and I apologize to anyone who saw it.

      Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/judy-wieder/the-not-so-sudden-death-o_b_342725.html

      Nov 4, 2009 at 3:55 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mike
      Mike

      Hardman, are you a Regent employee? Cuz you sure seem to have your lips permanently attached to their collective ass. And Erick, what “challenge” has Regent offered? Something inane, I’m sure, given the source.

      Nov 5, 2009 at 1:44 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Me
      Me

      “17,000 new places to turn”

      Where? Can you name them? While I admit, the Advocate long ago began that downward slump toward being another bubblegum-smacking pop rag devoid of any intelligence, it was also – as some have pointed out – the Newsweek or Time of its genre. Now everything is online and insipid: gossip, pop culture, celebrity worship, eye candy, fashion, and poor journalism. And while you might think today’s kids are growing up and coming out in an ever-inclusive world that is, as the phrase goes, “post gay”, the sad truth is that many young gay men and women are ignorant of how things once were and just how thin the ice is beneath those stylish shoes.

      Nov 5, 2009 at 8:38 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Anonymouse Me
      Anonymouse Me

      I worked at PlanetOut.

      Karen, the CEO, would occasionally come out of her office to actually talk to the employees. (But only because the VP of our section asked her to.) At that time we owned LPI media (The Advocate, Out, etc..) and we were watching it’s market share slide. In our meeting Karen described the state of the print side of the company with lots of “it’s tough times” and “it’s a challenging market to be in.” Blah blah blah. And then came the question and answer period…

      Considering that g@y.com was giving away free Advocate subscriptions to it’s hundreds of thousand of paid subscribers how is it possible our circulation is decreasing? Meanwhile, Karen talks of a publishing industry in decline… yet The Economist had increased their circulation by 100% over the previous four years. (And in this current year of 2009 by another 14% year over year.) So, what is the difference between The Advocate and The Economist? Quality. That is the difference.

      I pointed out to Karen that anybody can get low quality skim worthy news every single day, updated constantly, on the internet. That if wanted to increase our circulation that improving the VALUE of our content to our readers would be the way to do it. All of America’s low quality journalism magazines have seen declines in circulation. And never once has it occurred to any of them that the problem is that they are NOT indispensable. That they have managed to get along for far too long on being “the only game in town.”

      Well guess what folks? They are not the only game in town now, they are one of thousands of games in town and their game is looking stale.

      Want to increase readership of the Advocate? Pay for articles written by people who are authoritative on subjects that are important to the modern gay person. And don’t write surface articles on those subjects, write in depth articles that’ll INFORM the reader in a way they couldn’t get online.

      As this QUEERTY article points out: it takes MONEY. Not just to publish the physical media but to create QUALITY content. I wouldn’t care if the advocate showed up in my mail box having been photocopied at Kinkos, I’d read it if the articles inside were worth reading.

      Let me put it in a way that the people who run the advocate can understand: the market for stupid people is SATURATED. You don’t even provide high quality stupidity for these stupid people. SO STOP TRYING TO BEAT PEREZ HILTON. Instead there is a market out there for people seeking HIGH QUALITY information. Expensive to produce HIGH QUALITY information.

      If you can’t even contemplate attempting that please, sell the Advocate to somebody who can and who has the money to do it. Otherwise you’ll just continue to run the magazine into the ground. And it’ll take your company with it just like it took PlanetOut down.

      Nov 5, 2009 at 12:12 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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