The Advocate will convert to a monthly from a biweekly starting with its February issue, joining a growing list of magazines that have cut their frequency to save publishing costs at a time of shrinking ad support.
Others on that list include Condé Nast Portfolio, which will go to 10 issues from 12, and Condé Nast sibling Men’s Vogue, which will put out two issues next year, down from 10. Meredith Corp.’s Country Home is going to eight issues in 2009 from 10 issues, while Mansueto Ventures’ Inc. will put out 10 issues next year, down from 12.
Maintaining frequency is a particular challenge for news publications as consumers get more of their news and information from the Web, forcing the leading newsweeklies to cut their rate bases over the years. In the most dramatic responses to date, U.S. News & World Report will go monthly in ’09, having already cut its frequency from 36 issues from 46 in 2008, while The Christian Science Monitor will stop publishing a daily paper in April and relaunch as a newsweekly while beefing up its news coverage online.
Anne Stockwell, The Advocate’s previous editor, had tried to adjust to the digital world by pumping up the title’s service content while shifting news coverage to its Web site.
Even so, with the February issue, out Jan. 10, The Advocate’s new owners and editor will take the magazine’s frequency down to 12 times a year from 22 while trying to recast the title as a lifestyle and thought-leader publication. Sibling pub Out, a monthly, will stick to focusing on men’s fashion. The Advocate’s rate base will go up a slight 3 percent, to 178,000, and the magazine will convert to a heavier paper stock.
Jon Barrett, who took over as editor in June, said The Advocate had gone too far in covering politics and gay subgroups, and that the service content introduced by the former editor, such as an auto column, sometimes missed the mark. Barrett, who earned his service magazine stripes at titles like Hearst Magazines’ now-folded O at Home and Time Inc.’s Real Simple, will introduce six new service columns on topics including finance and health, while covering issues from an insider perspective that he said readers won’t find elsewhere. February’s Obama cover story will tackle legislative matters important to gays, ahead of the mainstream press, for example.
Barrett also promised a shift away from celebrity covers, saying that unlike 10, 15 years ago, when “we needed that validation” from the mainstream, today, “we aren’t talking necessarily about what Bette Midler thinks of gay people.”
For the first nine months of 2008, The Advocate’s ad pages fell 16.7 percent to 361, according to Publishers Information Bureau. (Out’s declined 2.7 percent to 393 in the same period.) Joe Landry—who returned as senior vp, publisher of parent Regent Media, in June after a 14-month stint as president of BlackBook Media—said the editorial changes and heftier paper weight would better position The Advocate to go after categories like packaged goods, luxury goods and travel. “A biweekly newsmagazine is not a sustainable model,” he said. “Certainly, it doesn’t make sense when people are getting their news online.”
Although The Advocate and Out share 20 percent of their readers, Landry (who oversees sales of both) said the two audiences come to the titles with very different mindsets, the first being practical and the latter, aspirational.
Landry also expects to upsell advertisers by packaging the magazine with Regent Media’s other assets. Regent bought The Advocate, Out and related properties from PlanetOut last August and now owns an array of gay-focused media holdings including magazines, Web sites, book publishing and here! Networks.
In what he hopes will be the first of many ad deals including print and the here! TV network, Landry said he’s in the process of wrapping up a deal with Holland’s tourism board that would include pages in The Advocate; sponsorship of a film on Holland that would air on the here! TV network; and pre- and post-roll ads surrounding video clips taken from the movie footage that would run on The Advocate’s Web site.