The last weekend of Feburary 2014, the LGBT Media Journalists Convening had a new face at the table. Sarah Toce, New Media Women Entrepreneur 2010 winner and founder/publisher of The Seattle Lesbian, represented her organization at the conference in Washington, DC. Her presence at the invitation-only convening shows how The Seattle Lesbian is becoming a powerful voice in the LGBT media world.
In less than one year, readership of The Seattle Lesbian has grown from 40,000 to 100,000 per month. Moreover, we’ve garnered some steady advertising support and developed some good marketing partnerships and community outreach opportunities that have made our online news magazine a force not only in Seattle, but also around the world.
All of this has to do, in large part, to the funding we received from the New Media Women Entrepreneurs award via J-Lab. It allowed us to exercise opportunities we might not have been able to afford – quite literally – otherwise.
We’d like to highlight a few main points.
We were able to pass the buck, so to speak, within our community by choosing local companies and small businesses – in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community predominantly – as partners in marketing efforts. We hired a website designer who identified as a lesbian and was starting up her own business to help launch a new The Seattle Lesbian site and a graphic artist in the LGBT community to redesign and manipulate our logo, cutting our vendor response time in half.
We also ventured into social media advertising for our 2012 Seattle Pride events, which paid us back tenfold.
With heightened marketing comes heightened visibility. One of our stories about a rape comment uttered on a radio station went viral after our editors received threats. National LGBT organizations and media outlets picked up our stories and we saw an increase in site traffic that lasted three months.
New partners have also approached us. The Seattle Times invited us to join its Local News Partner Network, which helped to bring our content to other area news outlets and connected us to more than 50 respected local news sites. Seattle Out and Proud asked us to host a stage at the Seattle Pride parade and serve as a hub for women at the event. It was great brand recognition and we are gearing up to host it again in 2013.
In addition, The Seattle Lesbian continues to work with some of the best up-and-coming writers, reporters and interviewers. In recognition that TSL has become a leading force in the LGBT community, I will be honored as a grand marshal in the June 2013 Seattle Pride parade.
Financially, we are sound, but still growing. We have enough advertising dollars to distribute funds to contractors and for website maintenance on a monthly basis. We would like to see this amount improve, as a new kid on the block, we really cannot complain.
Being a female owned-and-operated small business, it can be hard to gain a solid footing, but we persevered. The grant was enormously helpful to us in that regard.
I also took on sole ownership of the site from my co-founder, so time management, delegating duties, hiring writers, promoting the paper, and maintaining visibility all fell on my shoulders. Working within human limitation, I think our readers are getting level-headed, well-rounded reporting of current events.
On March 28, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court began deliberations on the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Hundreds of same-sex marriage supporters in Seattle rallied at the U.S. Federal Courthouse express their opposition to DOMA.
The Seattle Lesbian was one of the sponsors of the Seattle Rally and Urban Press donated the posters and signage. It has been an inspirational movement and we look forward to our moment of triumph in this issue.
Read more about the gathering on The Seattle Lesbian website.
The end of 2012 saw a spike in readership and public interest in The Seattle Lesbian. Writers began sending emails to our info account asking to be considered for the team. An advertising executive wondered if she could help with our marketing. Key media partners proposed story assignments that would benefit not only The Seattle Lesbian, but their own ventures as well. We were being invited to events around the country for media trade. All of this to say that The Seattle Lesbian was on the radar and definitely in high demand and, to be quite honest, it became a bit tough for one person at the helm to handle, but we made it through! Being busy is good, right?
With that said, I needed staff…quickly. Thankfully, I had a great stack of candidates to choose from and we added five new writers to the team. While there isn’t a budget to pay them yet, we are able to offer some pretty awesome incentives to make their work interesting and well worth their time. We developed a private Facebook group in order to share story assignments and ideas and talk about upcoming events and features. Workflow is starting to become a bit more manageable and, being the creator of this modern magazine, let me tell you: it’s a dream come true.
It seems that there is never enough time in the day, but that is a fantastic stumbling block to have, in my opinion. We are newsmakers, reporters, activists, advocates, writers, editors, photographers….we are The Seattle Lesbian (TSL), and we are journalists in the middle of a perfect storm that appears to be changing the community at-large.
Get this: The Seattle Lesbian online magazine shut down for the day today because of traffic. Our volume was so heavy that we could not sustain our readership for three hours. Again, not a bad issue to have, but extremely exciting, to say the least. We’ve upgraded our servers and are back online again, but talk about flying by the seat of your pants! We feel extremely blessed over here and grateful for all of the support our readers provide us on a daily basis just by opening up their browsers.
The community is rallying behind our online magazine in a new way. As editor-in-chief and owner/principal of the paper, I was asked to speak via video at this year’s World AIDS Day on November 30. The community here in Seattle would like to recognize TSL for educating the collective about HIV/AIDS this past year. They have asked me to speak about lesbians and their history within this epidemic. I am humbled, honored and so appreciative for the offer – and will be working on my segment next week.
The Seattle Lesbian online magazine has been in front of and behind the camera since we last wrote to all of you. It’s pretty incredible, really. Our readers are curious about the news writers making the news all over the map – and we’ve felt that it was our duty and responsibility to shift the weight into the media spotlight to get the name and brand of TSL out to a larger audience. After all, that is the way to grow in this business and – as women – it’s been incredible to see everyone rallying together for us.
When President Obama announced his support for marriage equality, we were called by King 5 (our local news channel) to comment. Both editors went to the Paramount Theatre in Seattle at 4:30am to get ready to go live on the air. Following that appearance, Charlene was on Fox’s Q13 to discuss the same issue. Additionally, she has been on KOMO 4, Elisa Jaffe’s radio show, KIRO FM, and other stations. With all of this news coverage, Charlene made sure to mention being Co-Editor of The Seattle Lesbian so we received a ton of traffic for the site and for our work – in addition to the really wonderful press received for her work, individually.
Charlene was invited to the Central Intelligence Agency. Yes, that’s right…the CIA! She spoke at the CIA. In Washington, D.C. Pretty spectacular, right? She was asked to speak during LGBT Pride Month and a portion of her film, “For My Wife…”, was shown to the new recruits as well. She was given a tour of the space (that’s putting it mildly, right?) as well as time to ask questions and explore the museum at the facility.
The Seattle Lesbian has been incredibly energized these past few months. We have kept up the pace of looking for new ways to work with stakeholders and others who believe in the message of our online magazine and have recently started to look at creating an audio portion of our magazine with a local radio celebrity.
The interviews that we have been securing for not only written but spoken word have made us realize the importance of multimedia in our work as a top news source and magazine for the gay and lesbian community. During our meetings and work study group nights we have gained a better understanding of the importance of reaching out to others who can help us to present a better product with a long-term goal of ongoing success and growth.
We have been working with a PR firm in Seattle that has helped us hone our messaging of potential avenues and endeavors that will not only enhance our travel section, but also our restaurant and entertainment reviews.
Both editors will be present at the Seattle reading of Dustin Lance Black’s 8: the Play. Co-Editor Charlene Strong will be participating in the talkback segment of the evening. Following that event, she will moderate an evening with the World Affairs Council in the discussion about global LGBT equality and civil rights.
On a technical front, we are consulting with a computer guru in Los Angeles who is helping us utilize our new format and platform. It is one of our top priorities to make sure that all avenues of discovery and internet presence are being utilized by The Seattle Lesbian.
In the coming months we hope to focus on a national magazine that, at this time, we are not at liberty to discuss. We have been doing market research for not only the logo but our mission statement and tagline. The responses we are receiving are overwhelming.
Until we chat again…