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Pride 2020 and LGBTQ Media in the age of COVID-19

Date: Jun 24, 2020
Pride 2020 and LGBTQ Media in the age of COVID-19
Todd Evans, President and CEO, Rivendell Media

Pride Month is here, and yet this year Pride will likely stretch right through the rest of year with so many celebrations delayed into the fall or later. While many Pride celebrations do traditionally take place in June – to commemorate the June 1969 Stonewall Rebellion, which ushered in the modern gay rights movement – Pride is celebrated in different months in different cities. Dallas, for one, only recently moved their Pride from September to June, but San Diego’s Pride has always been in July. But there are other non-June Prides, held either to avoid with competing with larger big city celebrations or due to seasonal weather in their markets.

Those who understand the LGBTQ market already know that each city or market is unique. This coincides and helps marketers understand exactly why most LGBTQ media in the United States is local. It makes so much sense also when you overlay the history and expansion of LGBTQ equal rights, which were won city by city and state by state.

This year as we “Celebrate Alone Together,” with many Pride celebrations operating virtually, marketers should be especially aware of the details so they don’t look foolish or out-of-step with the very consumers they look to gain by showing support. No need to worry though since there are companies like mine and other great organizations that are only too willing to help marketers and companies properly reach out to LGBTQ consumers, whether in June or at any time of year.

One constant is that LGBTQ media ties its markets together, and the cost to advertise in all local and regional LGBTQ media outlets is no more than the cost of any large mainstream national circulation title. So there is no additional expense overall. All it takes is educated planning. In fact, this year while so many have no choice but to stay out of the market due to the pandemic, those that do invest in reaching the LGBTQ market this year will find a much greater share of exposure, making it relatively easy to notice a national company’s advertising via our media outlets. Print demand and digital readership is actually up during the pandemic, while 2019 also saw a 5 percent increase in LGBTQ print circulation. Our media outlets are not only vibrant, but also in demand during these trying times.

Of course, everyone will be looking to our media to see what is going on – or not going on, as the case may be – and exactly when LGBTQ businesses and events will be opening up. While I wish we were all together to celebrate the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision finally guaranteeing LGBTQ safety from discrimination in the workplace, the simple fact is we can’t in most places. So we celebrate with our computers and catch up with our trusted publications and media outlets. The LGBTQ community is looking for connection – now and in the coming months – so it is a great time to build those connections. Share of space often equals share of heart. Everyone knows a message or advertisement at the right time can provide that emotional response all advertisers are looking for.

Aside from Pride, LGBTQ media itself is experiencing yet another unprecedented time in the U.S., much like all media everywhere. However, television and digital advertising is down while viewership is up because every advertiser must look first to see if their messaging is relevant and then determine what makes sense for their own objectives – while also considering their bottom line. People are going to remember who got it right, who was there for them, and who deserted them on the other side of all this, especially in minority media. It is a part of niche media’s job to relate the news in a way that pertains to “the” community. Yet LGBTQ media’s major advertising categories are severely curtailed due to the virus hitting the dining, arts, and travel categories so severely. So, demand is up while advertising is down. As well, Pride is an annual economic boost to LGBTQ media companies, so the hit is a double punch.

To me, the current pandemic is most similar to how the AIDS crisis affected LGBTQ media at that time. Few remember this but distribution was down and we saw our first real decrease in LGBTQ advertising at the time. And while everyone remembers Absolut for being the first to recognize how lucrative the gay market could be for them a decade earlier, I think the real reason they still have the iconic status they enjoy is because Absolut did not abandon the market during the AIDS crisis. That brings home the point that in each crisis there is always an opportunity to help, support, show up and ultimately reap the rewards from those actions.

Every consumer – LGBTQ consumers being no different – also comes with a bit of common sense. Everyone understands why the airlines or the travel category will be gone for a while, but every community is also looking for heroes and champions right now. I know I am, and I think the readers of LGBTQ media are too. It is from these readers that all those rosy demographics, loyalty stats, and buying habits actually come. These “super influencers,” as I like to call readers of LGBTQ media, want to know who is supporting equality, who is showing up, and who is asking for their dollars. This virus is certainly going to sort out just what is important to us as individuals as well as what is important to “us” as a community. With all media outlets having smaller than usual editions, this is a time that can be utilized to dominate the media space or get out a message in a less cluttered environment, all the while building credibility with this marketplace and helping our community’s voice stay strong.

One interesting statistic in our own company’s history (founded in 1979) is that all of our biggest growth spurts coincided with recessions. They present their own opportunities, especially to niche markets. Television may be the cheapest cost per eyeball, but the cost of entry has always been high. It’s no different now. Recessions make companies think about their core business, their best customers, and their company values – as we are seeing the value of “equality” coming to the forefront despite the current Administration. Perhaps this recession will be no different, and niche markets will see a big shining rainbow just around the corner.

Todd Evans
President and CEO
Rivendell Media
908-232-2021 ext 210