Disappearing Ink

EXCLUSIVE: Shakeup At The Advocate As Here Media Focuses On Digital Properties

Just a few months after returning to the newsstands as a bimonthly, the Advocate is about to undergo another major change. Recognizing that the future is digital, Here Media, which publishes the Advocate and Out, will be producing the magazine through Grand Editorial, the media company run by Out editor-in-chief Aaron Hicklin. Matthew Breen (right), the editor-in-chief of the Advocate, will retain his title but the magazine’s print focus (and Breen, being a good soldier himself) will shift from the current LA headquarters to New York, where Grand is based.

There is precedent for the change. Here Media outsourced the entire staff of Out to Grand Editorial last year, with the entire staff being laid off and some brought back on a contract basis. This time only Breen will be on contract; the rest of the Advocate staff will remain Here Media employees, at least for the time being.

Breen says that the move makes sense for Here as it tries to invest more in its digital properties. “The biggest growth opportunity for the Advocate brand generally speaking is online and mobile,” he says. “Here is devoting more of its resources that went in past to print to online and mobile.”

These are tough times for print journalists, particularly at news publications. (Newsweek, anyone?) The move back to the newsstands was surprising for swimming against a current that grows stronger by the day. Still, Breen insists that there is still a market for the print edition.

“We have a readership that feels a very specific ownership having the magazine as a brand,” says Breen. “Our advertisers will want a print edition as well. While a lot of growth opportunities are online, we still have demand for print.” For how long, though, is another question.

The Advocate has long had a bumpy history as a business, verging on extinction multiple times in its 45 years. Just three years ago, contributors  were complaining bitterly about unpaid writing fees. Still, the magazine manages to hang on. Around the same time, the print edition was folded into Out as a “supplement,” effectively ending the magazine’s days as a stand-alone title. With such dwindling visibility and broader industry trends working against it, the magazine somehow manages to hang on, at least for a while longer. As Breen puts it, “We are nothing if not survivors at the Advocate.”

True, but even survivors are mortal.