Written by: Matt Skallerud, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
I always enjoy starting a business article with a truly fitting “once upon a time” scenario. Once upon a time, to reach the LGBTQ+ market, any organization (large or small) needed to work with an LGBTQ+ media company. In order to educate the community about their products, services, or larger organization, this path was a necessity because there were a host of intermediaries between the media company and the organization. This included creative ad agencies helping to develop a stunning message, media placement agencies focusing on where to place this newly developed creative, and a whole array of other freelancers such as graphic designers, videographers, and others developing amazing LGBTQ+ content.
Over the past few years, the media ecosystem has been transformed by technology, ultimately changing how people consume their information and shape their personal and professional stories and worldviews. Just recently, the National Enquirer was sold, and its sale marked the end of the era where people turn to print media for gossip-style news. Now people consume this style of content quickly and with a wider variety on TikTok, Twitter, and other online sources.
This transformation to social technology played out in the LGBTQ+ media marketplace in several ways. Over the past few years, there has been a migration from banner advertising to “content as media” advertising. Companies have increasingly begun working with LGBTQ+ influencers, focusing on the content the influencers could develop and create, rather than developing ads. This strategy also focused on the influencer's follower count and reach, which enabled them to be as competitive as the visitor count of an LGBTQ+ website, or the print run of an LGBTQ+ publication.
On another front, larger advertising agencies traditionally worked directly with LGBTQ+ media companies and smaller, boutique LGBTQ+ ad agencies in order to reach the community. They would rely on these LGBTQ+ companies for access to these consumers as well as advice, knowledge, and experience from a creative and editorial perspective. This was how the larger organizations learned how to ‘talk’ to the LGBTQ+ community.
With the advent of programmatic ad placement, there is less of a dependency on LGBTQ+ media companies and agencies. There is a plethora of data at a marketer’s fingertips, and now ads can be placed in a centralized fashion through a single platform. This works with any medium and with any niche, targeted group, including the LGBTQ+ community. Taking this a step further, more and more companies are placing ads directly, with large firms like Proctor & Gamble leading the way.
Public relations and communications have also changed dramatically, as organizations are using self-service PR tools to bring marketing messages directly to their target audiences via social media. These organizations are bypassing the previously utilized LGBTQ+ media companies, yet they’re still getting incredible visibility in the marketplace, and reaching their LGBTQ+ customers directly.
So now LGBTQ+ media and advertising agencies essentially have thousands of “competitors” rather than just a handful of other agencies with which to contend. As an example, let’s turn to the world of HIV prevention. Ten to twenty years ago, organizations such as the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the SF AIDS Foundation may have received grants from local and federal government programs in order to reach a specific subset of the LGBTQ+ community. They would have partnered with LGBTQ+ media companies for this outreach, but now they often do it themselves. This allows the organizations to keep a considerably higher percentage of the grant revenue instead of spending it on agencies, and this outreach is primarily done via social media.
Many LGBTQ+ organizations have followed these health groups and also do their own direct outreach. Many notable ones include Lambda Legal, HRC, GLAAD, and the LA LGBT Center. They have all cultivated a very large, engaged following, and they can directly interact to educate around their programs, services, events, and more.
The bottom line is that LGBTQ+ media companies are no longer necessary to reach the community, and companies don’t need to rely on LGBTQ+ agencies to get the word out. When you add the new skill sets organizations are developing with their creation of content, the future for LGBTQ+ media companies is called into question, as is that of influencers and agencies.
This brings us to the real question, which is "where does an LGBTQ+ media company or agency fit within this new environment?"
The answer is content creation and the subsequent targeted distribution of that content. Organizations have a story to tell, and they need an LGBTQ+ audience to hear it. As mentioned, there are various tools at their disposal, but some cutting-edge LGBTQ+ media and agencies are bringing new, fresh perspectives and storytelling mechanisms that the organizations may not have considered. In this environment, relationships are becoming partnerships, working together to develop and distribute unique, specific content that resonates with their target market. In addition, utilizing a client’s advertising channels with that of an LGBTQ+ media entity provides a winning recipe for everybody as it expands the message’s reach and impact.
We are confident that content is the primary, most dominant "ad unit" in 2023 and beyond. The LGBTQ+ media and advertising/PR agencies that can create (or partner on creating) compelling content will be the ones to succeed. Success will also be for those who ensure the right people are engaging with that content, every day, and these organizations will become the dominant LGBTQ+ outreach specialists for the foreseeable future.
There are many options for what content should be developed, and by whom, including both substance and style. There are a lot of people publishing content, and it’s important to analyze what’s out there and cater it to an agency or client’s own unique business lens. Understanding this voice is the first step to take when beginning a content creation marketing journey.
Video creation is currently front and center, and there are many important options to consider such as how long a story is told, how it’s broken up, and if it’s optimized for horizontal or vertical display. These options, and how video fits into the larger marketing mix, warrant a deeper dive into how best to use this medium to create elevated content.
These will make for excellent topics for our next article on this subject, to be continued.
Matt Skallerud, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Matt Skallerud, president of Pink Media, specializes in LGBTQ+ online marketing, targeting gays & lesbians via content marketing, social media, programmatic ad banners, mobile smartphone apps and more. He also specializes in search engine optimization (SEO), key word/search advertising (PPC) and social media analytics. He's been in the LGBTQ+ online industry for over 25 years now.