Frontiers’ Parent Company Shuts Down, Leaving the Future of the 35-Year-Old LGBT Magazine in Doubt

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.

The cover of the latest issue of Frontiers magazine, which never made it off the press.
The cover of the latest issue of Frontiers magazine, which never made it off the press.

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.

Michael Turner, former owner of Frontiers
Michael Turner, former owner of Frontiers

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.”


15 Comments
  1. As a former (if sporadic) writer for FRONTERS–and an advertiser in the arts area–I rue its demise. It catered, almost inevitably, to a mainstream/WeHo gay audience with only an occasional nod to more cutting-edge goings-on (and even then, examined LA’s Eastside as a functional tourist destination). Editorially, the issue (pardon pun) is that “lifestyle” gays (into fancy restaurants, shops) have plenty of other media to consult, and more alternative/bohemian LGBT folk were never core readers anyway.

  2. There appears to be a heartbeat, at least at Next. They have been posting on the blog for the last couple of days. Maybe they will try to salvage that one.

  3. While it is sad to see a magazine with a long history in the community fold suddenly – I do not think their demise had anything to do with the future of niche market print magazines. Frontiers’ main problem was that it did not connect with its targeted market. The more it tried to reinvent itself as the new cool, hip and edgy – pandering to what they perceived would attract advertisers – it became less and less community based. Many niche market print publications are still doing well – as social media has not proven itself to be a sufficient “stand alone” marketing resource. As much time as people spend online chronicling the latest minutiae of their existence and sending their newest selfie poses across the virtual world, most people actually take less than 15 seconds to scan a website.

    On the other hand, people often take their time reading a magazine including the ads therein. There’s something about the tactile experience that makes them linger and browse and possibly, make a purchase. The problem is when – as in the case of Frontiers – a publication is not truly serving the community – content wise – it had initially set out to serve. A good example of a local LGBTQ publication on the right track is The Fight mag. They are very community based – and seem to focus on segments of the LGBTQ population sometimes overlooked by others (leather folks, people of color, trans folks, etc.) The Pride LA, GED and Adelante are also much more community driven than Frontiers was in their latest – and what seems to be last – reincarnation.

  4. Frontiers website and content were just terrible. The articles were becoming homogenized like they were writing for Pop Sugar. And the few posts they did have were thin and boring. Nobody ever shared anything from them on social media either, which says a lot.

    I used to get the print mag when I traveled to Palm Springs but the last copy I picked up a year ago was just crappy. At one time, they were kind of big time.

    A souflet never rises twice. Best to bury them now. There’s not much of a corpse to mourn.

  5. Online, Frontiers never felt like a go-to site.

    Earlier this year, I actually picked up a printed copy at Vons in Studio City of all places.

  6. Sad to read this. My sense is that Frontiers should have exited the print space years ago. It is shocking to see how abysmal thier traffic was for thier website (like 14,000 a week which is a joke).

    There’s a larger issue happening right now that is impacting all blogs in the LGBTQ space. Here, I’m talking about the main-streaming of LGBTQ news. Now a days, many gay focused sites are nothing more than parrots – chirping what’s already been reported on sites like NYT, Elle, Billboard and BuzzFeed. Very few do any original reporting. At one time, LGBTQ blogs played a vital role in gaydom. Not so much anymore (but still important).

    Sites like WEHOVILLE are likely to survive because they cover a specific geographic niche digitally.

    Frontiers ill conceived plan to target heterosexuals was misguided at best. To survive, LGBTQ blogs need to niche hard and avoid trying to be all things to all people. Queerty was mentioned earier so I’ll share here what some may not know. They are owned by Q Digital, a company that’s creating niches within a niche. For example, they’ve got a gay travel site, a transgender site and a civil rights site – plus Queerty.

    Advertising on gay blogs is difficult. Unless you have tons of traffic, the money a site earns is laughable. I don’t have insider knowledge but if a site is only getting 10,000 -20,000 visitors a week, that blog is only going to earn (at best) a hundred or so dollars a week. If you want to earn REAL money (like thousands a week) you have to have LOTS of high quality content p!us a super strong social media presence. That’s not easy. Traffic is what drives the dollars in digital.

    And speaking of digital, Wicked Gay Blog was recently snapped up by the hookup app, Jack’D. Why? Because if you have a decent social media following and respectable organic traffic, it’s easier to simply buy the blog (and traffic) instead of spending tons of money on advertising.

    Is this the new trend? Who knows. One thing is for certain – to survive in the LGBTQ space, you have to become really specialized. Otherwise, it’s game over.

  7. My biggest problem with Frontiers was it’s very poor online presence and lack of full newsfeed (RSS, ATOM, etc.). For the uninitiated, this allows apps and other sources to pick up content online, so that users can add content to applications that let users check news from one source and simplify the ability of other news organizations to share Frontiers’s original content. Further, the limited news feed they offered wasn’t setup so that they could make money through the service. Above all, online content wasn’t their priority.

    Content was also an issue. The switch away from LGBT news was obviously a mistake. They also didn’t cover much content about which their audience really cared. They should have had the more content which is expected from an LGBT magazine such as the locations of local businesses. Additionally one or more calendars of LGBT nightlife, community, and arts events. The list goes on and on.

    They also spent way too much time focusing on print. Print is on the decline and a millennial who wants a physical copy of a publication is very rare indeed. This is an industry wide change and those who have failed to adapt continue to disappear. Furthermore, nearly every publication has had no choice but to scale down considerably.

    I truly hope Frontiers can come back from the grave once again. There is still a large market for their content. If the new ownership learns their lessons (and maybe heeds my advice), they have the potential to succeed.

  8. Oh GAWD!!! Another bankruptcy. Another bailout. And another batch of writers, photographers, etc., getting screwed over by the same people who still run the show at Frontiers.

    Missing from this article are the list of LGBT people who didn’t get paid after Micheal Turner took over. I’m talking about the people who showed up, met deadlines, worked for dirt cheap to keep the magazine afloat while Turner worked out his deal to acquire the magazine. Instead of doing right by these writers, photographers etc., who showed up for Frontiers, even though payments were 5-8 months past due, Turner made his debut by spending thousands upon thousands to make a Russian version of the magazine to deliver to Russia–a country that does not allow the distribution of gay literature, so–guess what–that magazine never saw the light of a Russian day–or so I read somewhere. That was the real start of bizarre business moves under Turner, but hey, it made a great headline.

    Turner did not feel any obligation towards the writers that he acquired in the deal. The New Frontiers didn’t owe these writers any money, old Frontiers did, so instead he spent thousands upon thousands on a luxurious booth at his first gay pride (I heard it was to the tune of $10,000) and we continued to write for the magazine and we continued to not get paid under Turner, until we had no choice but to leave the magazine out of principle because we were tired of working for free. It’s not just me. Talk to anyone who has worked for them on a freelance basis. Guaranteed. They’ve been screwed.

    Don’t laugh, but I was owed the measly amount of $800, and years later, I received an anonymous hand-written check for $4.00 after the bankruptcy was settled. That barely covers a tall caramel macchiato at Starbucks! SOOOooo stupid. I told you not to laugh.

    Hey, I understand that sh*t happens, but not one single apology or any kind of acknowledgement from Turner or the editor in chief Stephan Horbelt, who I hear has never had any trouble getting paid.

    Anyway, I doubt the magazine will fold. Someone else will come along to try to rescue it, but there is no denying all the bridges that have burned to a crisp in the past 5 or so years, so like yeah, if this is truly the end of Frontiers Magazine, you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t shed a single crocodile tear.

    Luv,
    Me

  9. This is very biased writing by Hank Scott, who chose to use the “staff” byline rather than his own as he’s viewed Frontiers as his primary competitor since he decided to launch this site. As for Queerty being the most-trafficked LGBT site, Hank is obviously unaware that it recently dropped to number five, this despite its owners purchase traffic through Social Edge which has notable celebrities such as George Takei with large social media followings post links to their articles. This creates a very false impression for advertisers that the site generates a large number of visitors, when it is in fact just single impressions, or one-time visitors who click on the one article posted by Takei and then click away. Perhaps this is a business tactic Frontiers should have adapted.

  10. Sad to see it die. But Frontiers was never able to transition to a digital future – it was stuck in a declining print market that offered little news and only some entertainment stuff. The publishers never invested in an app that could have been used by visitors and locals alike to learn about what was happening in gay LA and where. What night was best at Rage or at The Eagle? Its website was terrible and had little traffic. It lost focus on the local LGBT community. And they fired Karen Ocamb – their only local reporter who had so much experience and one of the only reasons left to pick up the magazine. Wehoville.com has done a far better job of keeping the local community informed on civic/government issues, law enforcement, development and LGBT issues. The comments here have become must-read.

  11. Frontiers has been on the brink of insolvency many times in its past, and trying to increase its appeal to a heterosexual audience was misguided at best. Maybe it is time to move on. Let’s face it, times have changed, tastes have changed, and it’s relevance has been dwindling for some time now.

    I do hope that a more ‘newsy’ alternative, such as Wehoville, can both attract the ad dollars formerly still at Frontiers. I think that we might finally have an authentic, pertinent magazine at last if someone takes the responsibility of creating something with wide community appeal.

  12. I used to buy Frontiers in NYC, in the village bookstore. It was my insight into California living and gay life. It was big, with newsprint, not glossy pages. It had pink, then I remember yellow pages. I used it to find my first apartment in Weho in 1994. I made my first LA friend using the friendship only personal ads. True in recent years it didn’t know its audience, and left gays in the dust, but the old Frontiers was an institution. It’s sad, but maybe the next best thing is just around the corner.

  13. This is very sad, but I have to say that the magazine was horribly edited the past few years and it felt like a high school newspaper. Perhaps Wehoville will be the new Frontiers.

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