‘It’s all about money’: OUTinPerth ends print edition to focus on digital

‘It’s all about money’: OUTinPerth ends print edition to focus on digital
Image: OUTinPerth's editors and owners Leigh Andrew Hill and Graeme Watson.

OUTinPerth has announced the end of its print publication as editors and owners Graeme Watson and Leigh Andrew Hill look to a digital future.

Watson and Hill announced the “difficult decision” on OUTinPerth‘s website yesterday, saying that they’ll renew their focus on the title’s growing online audience after producing 210 print editions since 2002.

“While the print edition of OUTinPerth is still widely read, and has the largest single-city distribution numbers of an LGBTIQ+ title in Australia, increasingly advertisers are shunning print media in favour of online products,” Watson and Hill wrote.

“Our readers are not only here in Perth, but around Australia and across the globe. We will continue to bring you the news, it’s just going to be different.

“Moving online also means changing the way we do things, we will be closing our Northbridge office later this month and in future will work nomadically.”

Speaking to Star Observer, Watson said the decision was “all about money not readership”.

“Like all small businesses we have the challenges of cash flow, we have to pay for printing up front and then wait months for income to come in through advertising.

“Our terms of trade might say pay within seven days of publication but some businesses can take up to six months to settle an invoice. That leaves us scrabbling for money to keep the operation rolling.

“As other print publications struggle to maintain readership they reduce their advertising prices, which means clients expect the advertising prices of all publications to drop correspondingly – even if they’ve got a strong readership.

“In the last six months we’ve been asked by really huge businesses to give discounts of up to 80 per cent – that just makes it not viable.”

Watson said that despite printing 10,000 copies each month and being a vibrant street press voice in Western Australia, promoters would offer OUTinPerth tickets rather than money in exchange for advertising.

“We constantly get requests for copies to be sent to the suburbs of Perth and regional WA,” Watson said.

“The magazine had a huge pick-up rate and a dedicated readership, but it’s hard not to be sucked in to the whirlpool of the ‘print media is dead’ chant as mainstream publications struggle.”

Watson said that the business model OUTinPerth has followed since 2016 –  when he and Hill crowdfunded to take over the title after it went into liquidation under previous ownership – had been enough for them to pay their individual rents, but “maybe not enough to buy food”.

Watson says that given that “the media landscape is changing, people will need to financially support the titles they read.”

“We really don’t want paywalls on the news, I think it goes against the ethos of who we are as a community, we’re about bringing people together – not creating divides.

“We know that readers are engaged with LGBTIQ titles, we all have phenomenal audiences that are growing rapidly.

“If you can’t spare two dollars a month, then share articles, read an Australian publisher before you share articles from an overseas publisher.

“There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing your local community sharing an article from an overseas based publisher that is just a copy of something actually created in your own community,” Watson said.

Despite the end of OUTinPerth‘s print run, Watson believes in the future of LGBTI media in Australia, despite the increasing challenges faced by all community-focused publications.

“There are more stories than we can share everyday, and a huge audience who want to read them,” he said.

“Imagine if we’d gone through the marriage postal survey without LGBTI publications, how different would election coverage be?”

Watson and Hill said that they never reached the point of being able to pay themselves regular salaries – Hill’s not always on time, and Watson has not been paid one since 2016 – and will look for other work while continuing to produce content for www.outinperth.com part-time.

“I think as publishers we need to be bolder and more innovative. We’re a pretty hard working and humble bunch, we need to champion our successes more, because queer media in Australia is doing awesome work.”

OUTinPerth has established a Patreon page to allow readers to directly support Watson and Hill’s efforts to keep LGBTI media alive in Western Australia: www.patreon.com/outinperth

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