It’s an easy task to attack Window Media for faulty business practices that led to the company’s demise. But so far, the most stinging commentary on the closure of the Blade newspapers comes from competitor Thomas E. Horn, publisher of the Bay Area Reporter, who just called out Window’s brass for sinking the ship all on their own. That is: It wasn’t the fault of the gay print media marketplace, but terrible leadership.
Says Horn: “Window Media has been is serious financial trouble for some time for reasons mostly unrelated to the general decline in newspaper advertising and the economic downtown. They leveraged their assets, including their newspapers, to fund acquisition, expansion and Web development by obtaining a huge Small Business Association loan which they were unable to service and resulted in their being put in involuntary receivership. I do not believe that the failure of Window Media means the failure of LGBT newspapers in the major population centers where they are located. Gay newspapers that have prudent management and business practices, such as the B.A.R., the Philadelphia Gay News, and the Dallas Voice, just to name three, continue to succeed.”
The Washington Blade, which celebrated 40 years of publishing this year, was trailed by Horn’s own B.A.R., which this year celebrates 39 years of publishing. And it’s coming to steal that record.
UPDATE: Philadelphia Gay News publisher Mark Segal joins the chorus of those denouncing Window’s management. His statement reads in part:
If you do your journalism correctly, you will be
relevant, trusted and a necessity to your community. That brings readers,
which brings advertisers, which pays the bills. Your first line of
advertisers should be the community itself, which should support its
publication of record. Next are the gay-friendly and non-gay businesses in
gay neighborhoods and the non-gay businesses frequented by the LGBT
community. And once that is in line, it should cover your bottom line. Any
national advertising that comes your way is the cream of the business.
Of course, you still need basic business practices and leadership to bring
it together. Here’s a possible example of how the above rules applied to the
Washington Blade. Window Media and their other partners began their course
of destruction when Chris Crane discredited and cheapened what was one of
the nation’s leading LGBT publications (he even included a “Bitch Session”
column and hired a former escort as a political columnist). That led to a
decline in advertising, which resulted in cutting ad rates to undercut
competition. At the same time, David Unger, head of Window, went on a
publication-buying spree with money guaranteed by the Small Business
Administration. They had a sinking ship and went further in debt. When Crane
was let go/resigned, the Blade began to regain its stature but, still under
Unger’s leadership it continued to buy other publications and cut benefits.
Various business arrangements with other publications, such as HX, entered
the Blade world. Who owned what became blurred. Lack of trust from readers
and advertisers, a possible fight among partners and an ensuing host of
lawsuits spelled the end.
This cocktail of failure was about Window and Window alone. It affects the
employees of those publications and the cities they serve, but not any other
local publications anywhere in the nation.