David Badash in the Huffington Post has taken his earlier work on the future of LGBT news sites (from his blog the New Civil Rights Movement) to a larger audience. It relies on a story at the Nieman Labs on whether it is possible to be too niche when it comes to news, focusing specifically on LGBT news sites.
Badash’s thesis is that online LGBT news sites live in perilous times and that the turnover recently inside the online world may have a larger implication on whether LGBT news sites can survive.
Is there a future for the gay news and politics sites and blogs that focus on and advocate for the LGBT community, or will we continue to see them consolidate — or just disappear? Why are so many gay news sites finding it so challenging to stay afloat? Are advertisers leery of being associated with distinctly gay sites? Is this niche just too “niche?”
“Whether corporate-run or a one person shop, the outlook for gay news blogs is that most of them are not turning a satisfying profit,” writes Nikki Usher, at Harvard’s own niche journalism site, Neiman Journalism Lab, in a recent article, “How niche is too niche? The case of gay news blogs.”
Publishers of gay news sites talk about the issues Usher’s piece raises: inconsistent advertising and few advertising network options, and lack of support from LGBT organizations. While visits at many LGBT sites are growing, most journalists and bloggers work very hard to attract and keep each and every reader.
Badash suggests that readers, advertisers, and the activist left need to support online LGBT news sites and that without that support, we could see more turnover. Included is an interesting set of quotes from Bil Browning of Bilerico Project and Pam Spaulding of Pam’s House Blend on the relationship between the activist community and the LGBT online world.
“The right wing has no problem using its ‘wing nut welfare’ to amplify its messaging through politically compatible blogs,” says Pam’s House Blend’s Pam Spaulding. “The left is at once averse to that model but also queasy about what any blogger might say that is off-message or not ‘safe,’ and thus don’t want to make that investment in the blogs as part of overall movement support. That activist/reader reticence, along with the current feeble support through ads and direct fundraising campaigns, will never raise enough money to make LGBT-focused blogs sustainable.”
Bil Browning, founder and publisher of Bilerico, agrees. “While conservatives are funding right-wing Internet sites, blogs, and pundits to the hilt, the left has abandoned progressive citizen journalists since Obama’s election,” says Browning. “For LGBT news and political analysis sites, this tightfistedness on the part of Democrats, LGBT and other progressive organizations, and large funders has resulted in quite a bit of belt tightening.”
Many serious LGBT news and analysis sites are consolidating, reducing staff, or going out of existence entirely. Browning feels that “at this point, the left and LGBT leaders should be investing in our sites as an inexpensive way of moving their message, but instead they expect citizen journalists to work for solely altruistic reasons. Just because we believe in the same ideals doesn’t mean we don’t need to eat and pay our rent, too.”
While there’s a lot there that makes people whetted to the traditional media model cringe–working with political activists, funding from progressive organizations–to me the larger question is whether even relying on progressive organizations for funding will work or whether there is just only so much room in the marketplace for LGBT news and opinion.
I get most of my LGBT news via Twitter, RSS feeds, and Facebook. I’m constantly struck by how similar the news is from various sources–traditional online news, connected to brick-and-mortar news outlets, and opinion. At the end of the day, it seems like there are only a few national stories worth reporting on and the rest is filler.
Call me a cynic, but I’m just not that interested in the “It Gets Better” video by the baristas at a Starbucks in WeHo. I’m not sure news consumers really want a constant stream of tidbits about D-list conservative activists that are unknown outside of the conservative fringe and the LGBT blogosphere. Frankly, writing about every utterance coming from inconsequential candidates like Rick Santorum just doesn’t seem to meet the news threshold. And don’t get me started on celebrity news.
So is there also a news gap? Has the turnover in the LGBT news world occurred because they can’t survive and don’t have enough support, or is it because there just isn’t enough news to sustain?
We are welcoming some new bloggers to this blog and I hope their debuts will take on some of the questions raised by Badash.