Phil Reese

Washington Blade, Southern Voice closed in Window Media demise

Filed By Phil Reese | November 16, 2009 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: gay media, houston voice, south florida blade, southern voice, Washington Blade

UPDATED AT THE END

Disturbing news this morning. Window Media--the Publisher of the Washington Blade, the South Florida Blade, the Houston Voice, the Southern Voice, David Atlanta and 411 Magazine--has officially closed its top publications: The Southern Voice, David Atlanta and the Washington Blade.

At publishing time I had not received any confirmation on Houston Voice or The South Florida Blade's closure (both their websites were down once again, most likely due to high traffic), though an update on Fresh Loaf from former Southern Voice Editor Lauren Douglass-Brown confirms that all Window Media publications are affected.

The Blade website has been up and down all morning, presumably because of increased traffic from this story, but their Twitter feed officially confirmed the bad news:

wt4b017efba2203.png

More after the jump.

Project Q Atlanta reported on the "NOTICE" that employees at the Southern Voice found on the door this morning:

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

For more coverage of this sad story, check out Chris Geidner's LawDork updates.

UPDATES: (SEE UPDATE FIVE FOR NEWS ABOUT 411'S CONTINUED PUBLISHING)

UPDATE 1: An anonymous commenter over at the Queerty piece on this debacle has revealed that they have some insider information on the future of some of the Window Media Publications.

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.

UPDATE 2: Gay City News, out of New Jersey/NYC, published a report on Window Media's financial woes way back in February; but as dire predictions did not come true, many in the LGBT bloggosphere seemed to let the story go quiet. Way back in August 2008, however, Window Media's future seemed unsustainable as their primary investor, Avalon Equity Fund, were forced into Receivership. Unfortunately, they were unable to pull out of their financial hole, it seems.

UPDATE 3: Our own (and the South Florida Blade's own) Father Tony has revealed that Mark's List has recently been working very closely with FLBlade and 411 Magazine, and would be a likely suitor if the publications will continue in the future.

UPDATE 4: According to Progressive DC Blog, DCist, unlike the Southern Voice (see above), Washington Blade employees had a bit of a warning. They were called this morning and allowed to come in to clean out their desks today:

UPDATE: "We just found out this morning that we were shutting down completely and that we all lost our jobs," Blade staffer and DCist contributor Amy Cavanaugh tells us via email. "It's kind of crazy."

Amy said that unlike in Atlanta, where Southern Voice staffers reportedly discovered their offices were locked up today with no warning, Blade staffers got called this morning and informed that the paper was closing, and were allowed to come in and clean out their desks. They don't expect to be allowed back inside the building after today, Amy said.

UPDATE 5: Mark's List has confirmed that in fact 411 Magazine will continue publishing under the name Mark's List Magazine starting in the next issue. The features in Mark's List Magazine will remain the same as in 411 Magazine, merely under the new name. If word becomes available that there will be other changes, that will come under the update here.

UPDATE 6: Bilerico Contributor Karen Ocamb, spoke with Blade Editor Kevin Naff about the future of the Washington Blade.

Naff said the staff is "united and all sticking together" and they will meet tomorrow to make plans for launching a new venture. Naff said:

"We hope to re-emerge as a new entity without all the Window Media baggage."

Naff said he and Blade publisher Lynne Brown have already been discussing launching a new venture and believe they have funding. Naff said:

"We will re-emerge as a leaner, meaner operation without all the very expensive suite of offices. We're going to shed some of that corporate trappings. And we will re-emerge as a leaner operation that will make money on day one."

Naff said that the new venture would be both print and online and noted that the MSM Politico "didn't make money as an online news site only. "They did a print edition and suddenly they were in the black."

Naff went on to note to Ocamb that they would ideally like to be up and printing by next week, but may have to hold of a bit longer because of the holiday. We will likely know more after tomorrow's staff regrouping. As of today, I'm sure the Blade staff is understandably busy stimulating the Washington pub and tavern economy.

Please visit Karen's post on this matter, as her coverage is exhaustive. Come back here for constant updates.

UPDATE 7: If you're still keeping up with this story, Towleroad has assembled a hodgepodge of other angles on this--including speculation about what will happen to the paper's archives.

EVEN MORE INTERESTING is this piece in 365gay.com about how the Blade was all but saved by the Falls-Church News-Press owner (and National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce member), Nicholas F. Benton--but that the paper was closed under his nose without notice, despite his having been informed he had won his bid for it.

Why doesn't the Small Business Administration want to talk? Why did they accept Benton's offer for the Blade and then close it anyway, without letting him know?

UPDATE 8: Bil has uncovered a little more information. What is going on? Why didn't Window's investors want to sell?

UPDATE 9: The Blade may be going to print under a new name on Friday. The Advocate has more details, and we are likely to know for sure tonight after the Blade's Hard Rock Event in DC.

UPDATE 10: THE BLADE--BACK IN BUSINESS AS DC AGENDA! According to the Advocate, The Blade staff is bringing their newest iteration of the iconic institution to the presses on December 4 for weekly breakdown of Beltway goings-on.


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Wow. Laura and Dyana Bagby are very good friends of mine. I hope they can bounce back. We need them here in Atlanta.

Phil,
Stay tuned regarding the Soth Florida Blade/411 magazine. My guess is that there will be some kind of marriage between them and Mark's List. I think this Queerty commenter is probably right, for the reasons I list here.

This is a true loss for our community. The Blade had great respect and inside access to government officials. Now we'll just have to guess what's happening in government.

This is terrible news. I've had a few pieces published in the Washington Blade over the years, and it's always been one of my primary info sources on big LGBT-relevant stories.

The reality is that, hey let's be honest here, part of this is our fault, that is those of us who publish online, the blogs and other online LGBT relevant media. More of the our community is reading us and less are reading hard copy print publications. It's a reality that's not only true for LGBT media but also for print media across the board.

The sad reality is that now we'll have many less professional journalists bringing us the stories we need to read. More and more those of us who disseminate and comment on these stories online will now have to do more digging than we had to because so many of these folks had already done the grunt work to get those stories into the public eye.

That's bad for our community and it's bad for our media overall. While many of us, myself included, have disagreed, sometimes vehemently, with what we've read in some of these publications, there's no doubt that they provide a valuable and even essential service to our community. Many of the discussions that take place here and on other blogs actually started as the direct result of the work of these journalists.

For the LGBT community, the closing of Window Media, and specifically the Washington Blade in particular is a true tragedy, tantamount to the impact that the closing of the New York Times would have on the mainstream print newsmedia.

It's my fervent hope that these pros who have kept us so well-informed over the years will resurface in other, new LGBT news publications. We need these folks to continue their work on behalf of all of us. Our community would be far poorer for it if they were to leave the profession or turn their focus to non-LGBT-relevant issues.

Fingers crossed.

Rebecca, I couldn't agree with you more. The Washington Blade IS the LGBT New York Times.

I don't think Print Journalism is "over." I can't do what a professional, full-time journalist does. Even a part-time journalist, as is the case in many local LGBT magazines, can do a lot more digging than I can do for Bilerico.

I think folks realize that. Its not that bloggers are going to or even seeking to REPLACE traditional media. The whole catalyst behind the blogger movement was to supplement traditional media. However, there are a lot of things that traditional media HAS NOT DONE YET that blogs have--blogs are able to maintain greater independence from corporate interests, and can therefore make greater risks in going for stories--if they screw up, the investors don't vote them out.

In the LGBT community, we often get our breaking news from blogs, rather than our old bastions of journalism. The blogs--which at one time merely commented on the news--now often break the news and scoop the real journalists. An effect of this is that traditional journals now follow the BLOGS to get their stories. That means that their reporting comes late--readers already know more than what's in the article from the fifty blogs that reported on the story before it even made it to the front page of the publication's web page.

Traditional, professional media is good and will survive, but will have to adapt first. One of our BIG problems in the LGBT community is we've allowed our publications to consolidate in recent years, and we're going to see mass closures as a result. What emerges from the ashes needs to be protected and preserved as independent and not rolled into whatever media conglomerate promises big things in the future.

In the mean time, watch the blogs to find out what happens to the newspapers...

...the definition of irony.

That may be part of it, but I don't think that most blogs take enough of a story for people to actually stop reading the news sources if they were otherwise going to read it.

The economy is also to blame. ad revenues are down across the board. We used to make more here with less traffic (it was never much), and I know a few other LGBT bloggers have felt the impact. Lots of publications, LGBT and straight, are feeling the impact of decreased ad revenue.

That and the Advocate has started doing a lot better DC coverage than before with Kerry Eleveld. That broke into some of the Blade's space.

And, finally, mainstream publications have also been covering LGBT issues better than they used to.

I don't think we can point to one single source, but if I had to, I'd say the economy would be the biggest source of the problem. Ad buys for LGBT media really just dried up.

I do have to ask why this happened to these papers, though. Were they less successful than the LGBT local journals that stuck around, like Philadelphia gay news, the Windy City Times, Bay Windows, etc? The SOVO and the Washington Blade were two of the biggest. Why them and not others? Or are the other ones going too?

Debt is what killed this one. I spent many years packaging SBA guarantees on small business loans (SBA defines a small business as having less than 500 employees). Those loans are nonsensical. That is why they required a guarantee. The SBA's unspoken premise is that 80-90% of those loans go bad. Meanwhile, a piece of business may grow and be salvaged out from under a bad loan. That may be what will happen in DC but the possibility is complicated by the fact that investors are wary of print media. Also, rumors of Blade "profitability" may be just that. An investor would need to see three recent months of P&L and balance sheet to decide about profitability. In the old days, a rich man looking for a vanity investment might buy a newspaper. The DC Blade needs a gay person with deep pockets and a nostalgic attachment to print. It shouldn't be too expensive in terms of startup costs. Basically enough working capital to cover a month or three. I'm guessing $200,000 ought to do it.

Father Tony, this is what I'm hoping for. We HAVE wealthy folk in the community who donate millions every year to our various organizations. It would be nice if they took a little out of the budget this year to save the Blade. This also worries me, however, because if someone less than nostalgic purchase it and then close it, they can get a tax write-off: from what I understand, that's what happened to the Gay and Lesbian Coast to Coast Times back in the day.

I hope that we are able to find someone that truly cares. It sounds to me--from your estimate--that bringing the Blade back and opening a new bar or restaurant would be about the same cost. One serves a vibrant local community, and certainly might be nice--if it catches on--the other a long, long standing institution of the NATIONAL LGBT community, and of the Nation itself. If I had $200,000 on hand, I'd save the Blade... but that's just me.

The loss of a weekly LGBT newspaper from the DC area is a huge blow. I pray that the collective community finds a way to resurrect the Blade or create an alternative weekly newspaper for LGBT folks in the DC area.

I don't see this post on the DC Bilerico site.
Seems ilke it should definitely be there.

See http://www.glaaforum.org/

The staff of the Blade is meeting tomorrow to discuss launching an indepemt LGBT paper in DC.
The Blade was making a profit but not enough of one to save Windows Media. Its profits were being drained to prop of other Windows Media publications elsewhere.

The DC Blade closed for one reason, and it wasn't the economy or ad revenue, it was because the owners bought it at the peak of the media frenzy, paid too much, and assumed too much debt. They had aspirations of being gay media moguls and flipping the properties using other people's money. This was as the entire media sector was about to jump off a cliff.

Defaulting on their SBA-guaranteed loan meant it was only a question of whether the doors would close or whether a settlement would be reached with a new investor.

Now a key question is whether employees had a "do not compete" clause in their old contracts with the Blade/Window Media. If they did, and the SBA/bank seeks to protect their assests in the closed company -- name, good will, leases, equipment -- toward selling those assets, then that may impede efforts to start up new publications.

Bob Roehr



The Blade itself was making money, although not alot. It was dragged into the bankruptcy of its parent company that bought it a few years ago. They probably paid too much, plus, they were loosing money on their other publications. The Blade folded because the parent company filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy which is a liquidation, not a reorganization. it's too bad that they did not spin-off the Blade in a sale earlier. This was bad planning and a stab at the lgbt community that it was not handled better. Blade staffers were to have been paid today, and all lost their pay checks.
I attended the Blade's 40th Anniversary party a few weeks ago at the Harmon Theater in DC. It was a grand affair with all the local politicians and local gay icons, such as Frank Kameny. No hint from the people from the Atlanta main office that things were so bad, although the Advocate had reported on the troubles of the parent company about a month ago.
The Blade staff is meeting tomorrow morning to try to rise from the ashes, and carry on. It is a huge asset, with its long institutional history, and some staff and writers who were there from the start. The on-line blogs are great. However, no one covers the DC City Council , mayor's office, or the US Capital Hill from a gay perspective like the Blade. If a solid core of the staff stays on with the new paper, it will preserve lots of its assets - the people and the know-how.

Puh-leeeze....Enough excuses. All the pubs, in the past few years, had become crap and nobody wanted to advertise in them anymore because they were not relevant. The local publishers were way over their head and how they ever got their jobs is the real mystery.

LGBT and other media should be publically funded, written by journalists, run by those who work there and editorially free and inclusive.

Private ownership is incompatible with editorial freedom and professional journalism.

I'm sad to hear about this news. I read the Southern Voice religiously when I lived in Atlanta. Heck, I even got my inspiration for the name the SoCal Voice from them. I'm glad to hear that Editor Laura-Douglas Brown started New Loaf. She was really Atlanta's version of Karen O'Camb! Good luck with your new venture Kevin Naff et al.

The SBA is being shady. I added an additional update at the end if you're still interested in this story. Please let me know if you hear of anything about the plans to resurrect the Blade (if even under a different name).

Did y'all see Bil's latest update? I liked to it in the last update. Don't understand what's going on...

I think someone like Mitchell Gold who is successful at business would be an ideal owner for a new version of The Blade. But anyone like Mitchell Gold who has business sense knows that there are assets worth something and assets worth nothing. Why buy the worthless ones when you can harvest the good ones after the sinking of a business. In this case, the assets of The Blade are its employees and its market. Mitchell Gold could easily now acquire those without acquiring any garbage.

I just hope that's what happened. We'll find out tonight, I suppose.

Michelle Marzullo | November 18, 2009 1:23 PM

This is such a sad state of affairs but it's also somewhat predictable. I don't know the whole back story to this one but the long and the short of it is that LGBT newspapers have been consolidating under just a few companies in the US for many years. The tragedy of all this is what we see today. Centralization is great if its feasible but having a multitude of smaller organizations running papers is wise. The net effect will also diversify the points of view and important stories that such corporate machines avoid for fear that each of their ventures will suffer if a sponsor doesn't like a story. Sad as this is, I think it will be good for our community.

Go Washington Blade staff, go. I cannot wait to see what comes out of this!

New details have surfaced that from the ashes of the Blade will rise a new phoenix as early as Friday. See my latest update and link for more details. Bottom of the post.

DC AGENDA WILL BEGIN WEEKLY PRINT DECEMBER 4!