David Hohendorf is so confident in the value of print media that he’s giving away a second periodical, starting today. The Birmingham publisher describes his latest launch, Xpress, as an “upscale monthly newsmagazine” for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) readers in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.
The 56-page debut issue has 20,000 copies stacked near the door at 300 businesses in Detroit and 26 suburbs. It features a five-page cover interview with Triangle Foundation founder Jeff Montgomery. The 10-by-11-inch color magazine has five shorter profiles, news features, two pages of briefs, a Ferndale restaurant review, dining listings and a wine column. An editorial in each issue will comment on “the struggle to achieve equality for the LGBT community.”
Editorial content starts with a richly sourced four-page account of how Palmer Park, Ferndale, Indian Village and other gay and lesbian neighborhoods have evolved. Dawn R. Wolfe of Ann Arbor conducted 10 interviews and weaves in academic studies for an example of what the boss describes as “our brand of long-form journalism.”
There’s also a piece on resurging HIV cases and a push for stronger legislative protections against hate crimes. Mini-profile subjects include Detroit Council President Charles Pugh and Birmingham filmmaker Amy Weber.
The mix of 56-percent editorial pages and 44-percent advertising is near the traditional 60-40 split for most mainstream media. Full-page advertisers include Astrein’s Creative Jewelers of Birmingham (the publication’s landlord), Volare Ristorante of Wixom, Kastler Construction of Royal Oak and SKBK Sotheby’s International Realty – with 10 pages of posh properties, including a $3.2-million Birmingham home and 11 others priced above $1 million.
Hohendorf, who’s also behind a free mailed monthly called Downtown Birmingham/Bloomfield that marks its second anniversary this month, says the new idea arose in early 2011 from “select members of the LGBT community.” He also speaks of “a special empathy” because “I have a lot of gay and lesbian friends, and someone close to me came out three years ago.”
He held four focus group dinners, recruited six editorial advisory board members from what he affectionately calls “the tribe,” tried a Kickstarter crowd-funding pitch that fizzled ($1,077 in 11 pledges) and decided to self-finance the project. His magazines share the same news editor, staff writer, designer, ad manager and salesman.
The 64-year-old publisher, interviewed Tuesday afternoon in his loft-style office on Maple near Old Woodward Avenue, is a print veteran whose new creation twice cites “my nearly four decades of experience in publishing.” His ink-on-paper expansion comes as many newspapers and magazines head in the opposite direction, battered by shrinking subscription and ad revenues. And he joins a metro market with other monthlies vying for ad dollars, such as Metro Parent, Macomb Now Magazine and Xology from Automation Alley.
Targeting selected audiences is essential, says Hohendorf, who believes “advertisers know niche publications can work.” Actually, the niche he picked already has a local print voice — Between The Lines, a Livonia-based weekly newspaper founded in 1993.
After a hat tip to that “only legitimate editorial product in the market for nearly two decades” in an introductory editorial, Hohendorf writes that his longer deadlines allow “the luxury of exploring LGBT issues in a bit more depth than a weekly newspaper.” In conversation, he describes offering advertisers a “more concentrated, more focused circulation, while they distribute as far as Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor.”
The type of ads accepted also differ. Xpress doesn’t sell space for hard-core video shops, sex toys, phone sex or hookups. Even medical marijuana ads are out-of-bounds.
At Between The Lines, “we don’t exclude those categories,” says co-publisher Jan Stevenson. She describes Xpress as “an interesting move,” noting in a phone interview that print magazines are “not considered a growth market.” Collegially, the Pride Source Media Group executive adds: “We wish him well. Welcome to the market.”
At their bright, white-walled office suite, Hohendorf and his team are hustling to launch the newcomer’s website at xpressmi.com, as well as a social media presence. Though it’s foremost a business venture, the publisher speaks in crusader-like phrases about an interest in advocating for workplace equity, benefits for same-sex partners and other “core issues of equality.”
[This post originally was published at Deadline Detroit on Oct. 17, 2012 as assigned content.]