With Ex-Condé Nast Star Phillip Picardi at the Top, Out Magazine Looks to Expand

By assembling the 'Avengers of LGBTQ Media'

Out is bringing in fresh voices and the magazine is getting a complete redesign. Getty Images
Headshot of Sara Jerde

Phillip Picardi is only days in as Out magazine’s editor in chief and the publishing superstar (who quickly rose the ranks at Condé Nast) has enthusiastically taken the reins with a specific vision for the LGBTQ brand.

In an interview with Adweek, he says he wants to use the platform to give a range of perspectives a voice, diversify the brand’s revenue streams and increase the number of magazines it prints. He also wants to broaden the brand’s audience, which Picardi says has largely been male-dominated.

“That’s something I never have experienced in my career,” he joked.

Picardi, who announced his departure from Condé over the summer, started out at the company as an intern at Teen Vogue and quickly rose the ranks to become the publication’s chief content officer, a title he also held for Them, the LGBTQ-focused Condé title he launched. He’s 27 now.

Picardi has the support of Nathan Coyle, the CEO of Pride Media, a holding company that includes Out and other LGBTQ-focused brands (like The Advocate). Coyle says Picardi was the “absolutely perfect person” to help dream up and execute a vision for Out.

“I felt like the titles were losing some of the relevancy and had been over the last couple of years and that was exactly what brought me to Phillip Picardi,” Coyle said.

Pride Media was formerly Here Publishing, but rebranded after Oreva Capital acquired the company in 2017. Coyle, who came on in June after serving as Domino Media Group’s CEO, says the brands have lagged development in some areas, including in the transition from print to digital, which Coyle says, “was happening in a way that has a lot of room for improvement.” As WWD initially reported, Coyle has worked to bring all operations in-house.

“There was a lack of entrepreneurship and it was being run like a good, old-fashioned publisher. In 2018, there’s no room for that,” Coyle said.

For Out, circulation of the magazine (which currently prints 10 months a year) has held relatively constant for the last three years at about 193,000, according to the Alliance for Audited Media.

But its digital audience has declined. Unique visitors to out.com in September 2017 totaled more than 1.6 million but declined by nearly 60 percent to 691,000 readers in September this year, according to comScore figures.

The dramatic decline was driven by changes to Facebook’s algorithm, Coyle said, which affected a number of other publishers this year.

Editorially, at least, Out is bringing in fresh voices and the magazine is getting a complete redesign. New hires under Picardi include Michelle Garcia, Vox senior editor for Race & Identities, as managing editor, Fran Tirado, of Food 4 Thot, as deputy editor and Ira Madison III, host of Crooked Media’s Keep It, as a columnist.

“We want this magazine to symbolize more and more about what the true queer experience is,” Picardi said.

An editor in residence program will also bring in guest editors, including writer, director and producer Janet Mock who will guest edit the March issue, which will be produced by female and trans content contributors, including everyone producing photo shoots on set, from styling it to working on sound.

It’s like Picardi is forming the “avengers of LGBTQ media,” Coyle joked.

“It’s a really, really wild and gifted and intelligent group of individuals that represent a range of diversity and authenticity that is the exact kind of team that is going to really, really take the title to amazing new places,” Coyle added.

Coyle and Picardi also want to ramp up video production, commerce opportunities and ways to expand the brand’s events business. They plan to greatly expand their Out 100 event (taking place tonight in L.A.) to make it a bigger, formalized awards ceremony and are brainstorming ways to tie events to each of the print magazines, which Picardi plans on increasing to 12 times per year and relaunching Out Traveler, to provide quintessential travel tips for the LGBTQ community.

“That premium print experience is a great way to kill two birds with one stone,” Coyle said.

Queer media, broadly, is becoming a main outlet for young people to get their news, as they latch on to brands that have widely embraced the LGBTQ community unlike mainstream outlets, said Rachel Lowenstein, associate director, strategic innovation, invention+, Mindshare North America.

It creates a “huge sale opportunity,” Lowenstein said for brands that can genuinely and creatively embrace the opening.

“Young people don’t view these publications or spaces as niche, but advertisers continue to think of these spaces as niche, which is great because this is a huge white space,” Lowenstein said.

@SaraJerde sara.jerde@adweek.com Sara Jerde is publishing editor at Adweek, where she covers traditional and digital publishers’ business models. She also oversees political coverage ahead of the 2020 election.