A Gay Media Empire to Shove in the Closet

A new kingpin of gay content has just come out to Wall Street: Here Media, which rules queer pay-TV, film, magazines, books, and websites. But has anyone stopped to ask if we need it?

The media itself is gayer than ever: From the pink mafia at the New York Times to the ambisexual likes of Neal Boulton, it's hard to think of the LGBT community as underrepresented in the mainstream. At the same time, as gays move out to the suburbs and raise kids, it gets harder for them to relate to the urban obsessions of the gay press.

And yet wannabe pink-collar kingpins like Here Media CEO Paul Colichman keep trying. His company is the product of a fire sale thinly disguised as a merger announced late last week. The company is made up of the post-layoff remnants of PlanetOut, the operator of a gay content portal and an online-personals site, along with Here Networks, a subscription cable channel, and Regent Entertainment Media, an indie film studio focused on the gay market.

Colichman (above), the Obama-hating Regent boss whom Queerty dubbed "the whiny queer version of Rupert Murdoch," is reprising the old dream that led a few queer media and tech veterans to start PlanetOut in the first place: Media for the gays, by the gays.

Under former CEO Lowell Selvin, PlanetOut expanded into everything from book publishing to all-gay cruises. An all-gay transatlantic crossing on the Queen Mary 2 proved such a financial disaster that it helped sink the company. But Selvin & Co. were too busy with playing with cruise ships to notice what was happening to the gay market: Having come out of the closet en masse in the '90s, most gays and lesbians found their interests weren't that different from mainstream America. The notion of a gay Web portal, which might have made sense in the mid-'90s, no longer worked in an age of blogs and search engines. And pay classifieds of any persuasion found it hard to compete with Craigslist ads.

Yet the dream of gay-media world domination continues to draw the likes of Selvin and Colichman. It's the promise of being a big pink fish in a small pond. Gay men seeking attention — who'd imagine? But that same dynamic is what dooms gay media moguls to being small fry.