Multimedia Platforms Worldwide has laid off the staff of its five publications, effectively ending publication of Frontiers, the leading gay magazine in Southern California for 35 years.
According to sources close to Frontiers, who asked not to be named, the layoffs were announced to the staff yesterday. Frontiers has published its most recent bi-weekly issue online but no print copies can be found.
In a filing with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission this past Friday MMPW announced the resignation of four of the five members of its board of directors. Those resigning include Robert Weiss, who was named president and CEO of the financially troubled company in June. Bobby Blair, the founder of MMPW, has assumed the role of CEO.
South Florida Gay News reported today that Blair had told some staffers that MMPW is “in suspension.” SFGN said Blair cited as a reason a court order issued on behalf of Massachusetts-based lenders that effectively seized the company’s assets. He said the order “has been issued prohibiting the company from distributing any cash or any other assets of the company.” Blair said he has retained a lawyer to fight the order.
Blair was once one of the country’s top junior tennis players in the United States and played professionally and coached. In 2009, he launched the Fort Lauderdale-based Florida Agenda, an LGBT newspaper. In June 2012, he took control of a company that eventually evolved into MMWP, with plans to buy and expand digital and print products across the country. He now lives in Los Angeles.
Blair purchased New Frontiers Media LLC, the publisher of Frontiers, in September 2015 from Michael Turner, whose profession is assessing the value of properties. Turner acquired Frontiers out of bankruptcy for $361,000 in December 2013. Blair’s MMPW added Frontiers to a portfolio that included Florida Agenda; Fun Maps, a series of maps of gay communities calling out bars and shops; Next magazine, a New York City gay nightlife guide, and Guy Magazine, a Fort Lauderdale website for gay men.
In a filing with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, MMWP said its net revenue as of the six months ending June 30, 2016, was $1,459,168, leaving it with a net loss of $4,698,798. It reported negative working capital of $5,518,237. As of yesterday, the value of MMPW, including all of its publications, was $299,000 according to an online listing of penny stocks.
Neither Turner nor Blair have responded to requests from WEHOville for comment. A friend of Turner’s told WEHOville that he hopes to reacquire it if, as expected, MMWP files for bankruptcy.
Frontiers was founded in 1981 by Bob Craig and focused on local, national and international news related to the LGBT community, as well as local entertainment and HIV/AIDS-related issues. It also published classified ads for escorts. The paper was purchased in 2007 by David Stern and Mark Hundahl, who died in December 2012. In recent years it claimed a circulation of 30,000 copies throughout Southern California. It once had a large audience in West Hollywood, where 40% of the population is said to identify as gay.
Under Turner, Frontiers magazine headed in an unusual direction. He brought on as editorial advisor Owen Phillips, a heterosexual man, who helped Turner realize what he told WEHOville was his goal of expanding the magazine’s appeal to a heterosexual audience as well as a gay audience. In the last year the magazine has carried reviews of movies, music, restaurants and nightlife with no obvious gay connection. That strategy is unusual in an era where successful magazines are tightly focused on well-defined audiences, moving away from the general audience focus of Look and Life of the 1950s and 1960s.
Turner also expanded Frontiers’ distribution to San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento, San Jose and Las Vegas. That also was an unusual strategy given the most of Frontiers’ advertisers are L.A.-area businesses whose customers are local.
After Turner’s purchase, the magazine’s advertising pages plummeted. Where once Frontiers published a 68-page or 72-page issue only during the dead holiday season or in August, recent issues of Frontiers contained only 60 pages. Frontiers also lagged in website traffic, with data from Amazon’s Alexa.com showing it was the lowest ranking gay website among eight national sites, including Queerty.com, which leads the others, and Out.com and Advocate.com. FrontiersLA.com, the website, also ranks far below WEHOville.com, which covers local gay issues given that 40 percent of West Hollywood’s population consists of gay men.
John Duran, a West Hollywood City Council member and a gay activist, lamented the closing of Frontiers. “The founder of Frontiers, Bob Craig, was a dear close personal friend of mine,” Duran said in an email message to WEHOville. “We worked together for LGBT/HIV issues at the Life AIDS Lobby and West PAC in the 1980s. It’s a sad day that Frontiers has closed its doors. Bob poured his heart and soul into the news magazine, which was central for LGBT organizing before the arrival of the internet and social media. Back then, Frontiers served as the primary communication tool for all of LGBT Southern California. Bob and Frontiers were also partially responsible for the creation of the City of West Hollywood. The end of Frontiers newsmagazine is a reminder that one era of LGBT history is closing – and another is yet to be written.”