Queerty is Dead (Maybe). Can Gay Blogs Stay Afloat?
Today, the influence of LGBT bloggers can be witnessed in arenas as diverse as political races and social gossip. They tell people what’s hot and what’s not. They inform and influence how many gay individuals vote, dress, or approach hot button issues. Politicians and opinion-makers increasingly seek them out. And the power of that quick post has attracted even mainstream publishers to get in the game.
"I think blogs have faced at least two challenges over the past few years," Aravosis tells EDGE. "First, the economic crisis and the hit all publications took to ad revenue. Second, competition. There are a lot more blogs nowadays."
Mainstream blogs like Politico and newspapers like the San Francisco Chronicle, Miami Herald and New York Times have begun covering the gay community in some depth -- and have the journalistic resources to outrun smaller blogs. Aravosis believes the impact is minimal: "Name one gay blog run by a non-profit or a newspaper that can compare to, say, Pam’s House Blend or Towleroad? I don’t see it," he said. "So, I’d say that political blogs have seen increased competition, but gay blogs, not so much."
Will Social Networks Kill Blogs?
It’s no secret: in the world of gay blogging, the fastest-growing segment doesn’t have a snarky name or a defined mission: it’s called Facebook.
"The rise of social networking sites have spawned more short-form postings from folks who would shy away from starting a ’blog’ but have no problem sharing on a more conglomerated site full of their friends," said Bilerico.
Witness the furious sharing of news items such as Osama Bin Laden’s death, which buzzed the phones of millions long before the President took to television to officially announce the event. The comments from the gay social network apparatus were often as hip as any irreverent blog post:
"In a mansion!?!?!?!? - oooooo Pakistan gonna be in trouble...."
?"Sorry it took so long to get you a copy of my birth certificate, I was too busy killing Osama bin Laden."
"May they feed his body to the fox that’s living on Trump’s head..."
Is there a future for a consolidated gay voice, when so many are piping up to voice their opinions on the same topics?
"I do think that, at least initially, Twitter and Facebook probably hurt blog traffic, as people who used to visit a blog several times a day now visit once in a while when they see a particular Tweet or Facebook post that interests them," Aravosis says.
But Bilerico isn’t worried. He believes that the ubiquitous sharing of tidbits on Facebook and Twitter source from his or other blogs. And, he adds, blogs offer what a short tweet just can’t: in-depth reporting.
"While we do plenty of sexy, funny, and short news posts, we’re best known for our longer political commentaries, essays, and cultural examinations," said Bilerico. "Our traffic just keeps growing as people seek out that type of content."
AfterElton’s Michael Jenson agrees: "It’s quite possible that social networking sties will have an impact on more traditional blogs," he remarks. "But I still think powerful eloquent voices will always rise to the top and continue to have an impact."
As social networking expands, however, the gay blogs increasingly find themselves in a constricting content squeeze; they must adapt again, or watch their advertising dollars polarize downward, direct to the social networks, or up to the larger content providers whose content they’re increasingly beginning to emulate. Trend analysis has not traditionally been the purview of the blogosphere, and spot reporting is migrating the gay friend network, potentially hurting the business of blogging where it really counts: traffic.
Ironically, the crisis occurs as many gay blogs finally find their footing. Aravosis proudly points out that his blog is making waves at the highest political levels. "Joe Sudbay, our deputy editor, got invited to the White House last winter with four other political bloggers to sit down and interview the President of the United States for nearly an hour," he says. "That doesn’t happen if you don’t have influence."
"I think the gay blogs -- the gay Netroots, really -- have frankly kicked ass over the past two years on DOMA and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell especially, though not exclusively," he continues. "We know the White House reads, and maintains a relationship, with a number of the top gay blogs, and we know the Senate and House leadership follow a number of us as well. The influence is there. As is the effectiveness."
Which means that if the LGBT blog community follows the lead of Queerty - into the abyss of commercial valuation or trampled into quiescence by the cacophony of social networking - a valid form of social progress is slowly being pulverized back into disorganized, ineffective chaos. Queerty proclaims it will rise again; but the odds that this phoenix will fly grow increasingly long.
Shaun Knittel is an openly gay journalist and public affairs specialist living in Seattle. His work as a photographer, columnist, and reporter has appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the Pacific Northwest. In addition to writing for EDGE, Knittel is the current Associate Editor for Seattle Gay News.