Reporter's Notebook: Writing For A Demographic

This past decade has been nothing short of amazing and frustrating. I’ll start with the amazing part.

Beyond V&R, I feed three other outlets, plus my consulting gig with a firm based in Idaho. I do not discuss what the consulting gig or what I do for it. Although I was asked to submit something for the company’s website. Let’s see how that goes…

Back to my other outlets, I have alluded to working for the other three over time. Some have been triumphant experiences. Others have been downright frustrating. In fact, I had multiple stints with every one of them. That makes things more interesting if you had more than a few cups of coffee with your editors, cohorts and other characters that work for those other outlets. 

There had been moments when my questions, concerns, and frustrations would take the tone of the following…

“When in the hell are you going to publish that article?”

“Why did you put more ‘chiffon’ on that piece than it necessarily should?”

“You sure you want me to write on that subject?”

There are plenty of other questions, concerns, and frustrations I could list here. Some with more flowery language. Language that I try to keep from your eyes on this website. After all, this site is for a much wider audience. 

However, I digress… 

These past ten years have been both challenging and rewarding. Not just in creating and feeding this anaconda, but for the other mouths I feed. 

One such outlet I write for – and I’ve probably mentioned it from time to time over the decade – have kept me going from this summer on. Stories that ranged from its first vehicle review in two-and-a-half years, a look at a social media campaign by a sports-luxury brand, a Pride Road Trip, and a focus story on a new dealership in the Twin Cities.

This second stint with the Twin Cities-based Lavender Magazine has gone longer than I anticipated. Over those years, I had my frustrations with them over content strategy, ad sales, changes in personnel, communication issues, and the magazine’s audience. To be honest, I have kept my distance from some folks at the magazine for the most part. 

However, I can honestly say that I am happier with the current editorial team than ever. They love what I provide to Lavender’s readers and challenge me to deliver my best for their publication. I can say that I have out this glossy LGBTQ lifestyle magazine on many radars beyond the Twin Cities – well beyond the Upper Midwest, in fact. 

It is also good that Lavender has a recognized brand in certain places within and beyond its Twin Cities base. At a recent trip to Pine City, Minnesota, I had people ask me why the magazine is no longer widely distributed up there. Other than suggesting they get a subscription of the magazine, I had to think about this for a moment. 

It is not just in Pine City where you cannot find this magazine readily. Lavender had pulled back from a lot of distribution points within the Twin Cities and across the Upper Midwest. You can easily go to a public library to pick one up. Because the COVID-19 pandemic shut down a lot of libraries across the readership area, those libraries cancelled their subscriptions and distribution agreements. 

It would be easy to say that it would affect my “numbers” that the public relations people measure my reach with. It has not. Those numbers have improved over these past the years because of the magazine’s quality of content. Some have said that I was part of that growth. 

Um, thank you?

Right now, I am in a better position with my transportation column at Lavender. There are articles in queue for publication through November, along with a couple of additional assignments I am working through.

If there is an upshot of this work at Lavender, there is the possibility of having relevant material created for that magazine to become available for GayWheels.com. The more regionally focused articles might not get their own version on that website. The more nationally focused stories do. That does require a lot of tweaking to ensure that both versions are different and divergent from each other. 

Focusing on LGBTQ audiences should be easier for me, right? Not exactly. 

Let me explain it this way: You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. 

My apologies for referring to the LGBTQ community as “horses.” If you understand the metaphor, then you understand my greatest challenge doing this work for that demographic. 

There are too many variables to sift out here. Some folks don’t want to read something from a white cisgender gay male. Some folks don’t trust a source to guide their consumer decisions for them. Some folks think that these outlets are bourgeois and banal and do not speak to them in any way, shape or form. 

The challenge of getting a specific demographic to read your stuff is to make yourself stand out in a crowd in a good way. In a culture that has always been based on attraction and desire, that’s a hell of a challenge for me. 

However, I keep on striving and moving forward. Frustrating as it has been for the past decade, I cannot thank Managing Editor Andrew Stark and Assistant Editor Linda Raines at Lavender Media for championing my byline in front of the LGBTQ community across the Upper Midwest. 

On this National Coming Out Day, there is one consideration I have to give. To be counted on to deliver great content is a dream of many writers. That is how I move forward with Lavender and the other LGBTQ outlets that want my content to be published.

All photos by Randy Stern

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