Out and Proud: Post-Sale, Editor Insists Everything’s Dandy

“Any premise that the magazine is in trouble is an incorrect premise,” said Aaron Hicklin, the editor in chief of Out magazine.

And yet one could be forgiven for making it. Back in April, the gay-targeted monthly and its older-sister biweekly, The Advocate, were sold in a veritable fire sale by PlanetOut to Regent Releasing (who also run the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender-geared here! TV network) for $6 million—less than a fifth of the $31.1 million PlanetOut paid LPI Media two and a half years earlier.

But Mr. Hicklin, former editor of Blackbook, insisted that any problems are the financially beleaguered PlanetOut’s, not his magazine’s. “Our circulation is up 30 percent since I’ve been editor and we just launched our second-best issue in terms of advertising and page count!” he said. “It would be an inaccurate premise to say we’re facing any more significant challenges than any other magazine. I feel our magazine is in a very good position now.”

Some staffers, however, are feeling queasy. “The mood prior to this announcement was really grim,” said one. Back in March, when the sale was mere rumor, employees were updating résumés and wondering which day would be the magazine’s last.

And after the transaction went through?

“So people were like, ‘O.K., when is the other shoe gonna drop?’ And it hasn’t!” the staffer said. “The Regent people have been meeting with us one on one and they seem really chill. If they wanted to disrupt stuff, they probably would have done something. The mood is up, which it hasn’t been for a long time.”

Members of the masthead might be toasting their close shave, but there’s still that age-old gay question about identity! Where does Out stand in a field where a general-interest magazine like The New York Times Magazine dedicates a 7,000-word cover story to young gay men who marry (as it did on April 27), to say nothing of what GQ and Details regularly cover?

“We bring a much better perspective,” Mr. Hicklin argued. “I think [those publications] are very aware they have a gay audience and they tread very carefully in terms of creating and articulating their sensibility, and they don’t alienate their gay readers. But that leaves us free to be unequivocally a gay magazine in a way we can be and they can’t be.

“I absolutely don’t think they’re stealing our gay turf,” he said.

In fact, he might be stealing their audience! “I’ve been getting the magazine and enjoying it—if I’m the test case, you’ve produced the first crossover gay magazine,” wrote Slate editor Jacob Weisberg in a note to Mr. Hicklin that the latter shared with Off the Record.

How ‘bout that? But will Out be around in 20 years, when gay people are completely assimilated into mainstream culture?

“I think we’ll exist, yes,” Mr. Hicklin said—though of course, like most editors these days, he conceded: “Whether this is a magazine that’s delivered as a print publication or primarily a Web operation, that’s something I wouldn’t put my money on. But everything that exists within those two covers will exist.”

Out and Proud: Post-Sale, Editor Insists Everything’s Dandy