Why PinkNews sees an enormous future as Vice and BuzzFeed Information falter

The previous a number of weeks have seen a remodeled digital publishing trade. Amid a confluence of detrimental elements affecting the digital media market, digital-native publishers BuzzFeed and Vice Media have taken drastic steps to regulate their enterprise methods: BuzzFeed has closed Pulitzer Prize-winning outlet BuzzFeed Information, and Vice Media has filed for chapter and bought itself to a consortium of traders.

Each publishers had a historical past of publishing progressive and LGBTQ+-friendly views. Of their relative absence, Benjamin Cohen, founding father of LGBTQ+ information writer PinkNews, sees a chance for his outlet to considerably develop its viewers.

“[BuzzFeed News and Vice] had been the 2 major locations, apart from PinkNews, that had been creating LGBTQ+-inclusive and progressive content material,” mentioned Cohen ultimately month’s The Way forward for Manufacturers occasion in London. “We imagine we now have the chance to construct the media model of the longer term.

“We now have been going for almost 20 years, so we’re a type of legacy writer now, however we’re actually agile. We’ve tailored to adjustments in society and adjustments on platforms and that’s why we’re persevering with to develop whereas different events that type of boomed on the similar interval we did, have then dwindled away.”

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‘We’re making an attempt to speak to everybody’

As a youngster and dot-com entrepreneur, Cohen made headlines in 2000 over a authorized dispute with Apple over his possession of the area iTunes.co.uk. He later based PinkNews in 2005, and a 12 months after joined Channel 4 Information as a tech correspondent, changing into the youngest-ever community information correspondent on the age of 23.

PinkNews got here into creation quickly after the passage of the Civil Partnership Act of 2004, which offered the primary authorized recognition of same-sex {couples} within the UK. Cohen described the queer media market on the time as extremely sexualised and primarily funded by the grownup leisure and intercourse toys industries, leaving a hole available in the market.

“It wasn’t a spot for mainstream manufacturers to promote or for mainstream celebrities to look, and the place you can legitimately go and interview the prime minister,” he mirrored on the Way forward for Manufacturers.

“David Cameron wouldn’t need to be interviewed within the magazines that will have the interview subsequent to a intercourse toy advert.”

By offering content material on severe information and broad social points, albeit seen by way of an genuine “queer lens”, PinkNews was in a position to carve out a distinct segment, attracting advertisers inquisitive about reaching LGBTQ+ communities and their allies with out overly worrying them their model can be positioned in areas thought of “unsafe”.

After over a decade of gradual however constant readership development, PinkNews’ recognition has accelerated over the previous 5 years. Its mission to “inform, encourage change, and empower folks to be themselves” has discovered acclaim particularly amongst millennial and Gen Z shoppers.

“Gen Z, one thing like over 50-60% of them don’t establish as straight,” famous managing editor Nic Keaney, who joined PinkNews earlier this 12 months after a stint at Twitter. “They don’t know precisely what they’re, however this technology’s coming and they’re searching for content material from an organisation like ours, and there’s no person else doing what we’re doing for the time being.”

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The writer boasts it now reaches greater than 100 million people throughout its owned and social platforms, and its current headcount development has pushed the group above 100 because it seeks to additional increase into international markets. Importantly, greater than half of its viewers is feminine, and on YouTube that determine rises to greater than three-quarters.

“It’s actually necessary for us that we’re not simply speaking to that form of ‘clichéd’ homosexual male viewers, we’re making an attempt to speak to everybody,” mentioned Cohen. “But additionally offering perspective on necessary subjects that aren’t essentially clearly LGBTQ+.”

Cohen identified that hundreds of thousands watched PinkNews’ evaluation of final 12 months’s Tory management election on TikTok, for instance, regardless of the topic not ostensibly being LGBTQ+ in scope.

‘You possibly can’t simply depend on a single platform’

The corporate’s “agility” to work with no matter social platform is most in vogue has given it a aggressive edge. PinkNews has 400,000 followers on TikTok, 280,000 followers on Instagram, and three.1 million followers on Snapchat, the place its partnership with Snapchat Discovery has contributed to sturdy added attain and revenues.

Cohen admits PinkNews wouldn’t be the scale it’s with out social media. However, not like the likes of BuzzFeed and Vice, PinkNews’ means to leap onto a number of nascent platforms has served it effectively. “You possibly can’t simply depend on a single platform,” he mentioned. “One of many issues that’s been difficult for [companies] like BuzzFeed and Vice is that they had been very reliant on purely Fb, and Fb’s not performing for them [anymore].”

Uncertainty about the way forward for information on quite a few social platforms has made adaptability a sensible requirement for digital publishers. Fb has signalled lately it’s disinterested in selling journalism on its platform; in the meantime Twitter is in a state of flux amid altering management and mass layoffs (together with Keaney’s personal departure) and TikTok is beneath risk of country-wide bans.

Cohen added that, given the altering and ephemeral nature of social media, generally the higher editorial technique is to be “smaller” and “extra targeted”, slightly than making an attempt to be “all the pieces to everybody” like BuzzFeed and Vice had tried. The implication: there’s a stronger, extra agile enterprise case within the niches.

‘Manufacturers have to put their cash the place their mouth is’

Like all publishers and not using a subscription-led enterprise mannequin, PinkNews remains to be, nevertheless, reliant on promoting income. As an LGBTQ+ model, it may generally be a problem for PinkNews to constantly have the ear of advertisers. Particularly, Cohen famous that UK manufacturers don’t—however ought to—spend a proportionate quantity of their promoting budgets on minority-owned and operated media.

“It’s fairly well-established to be spending a proportionate quantity of your promoting spend on minority-owned and operated media [in the US],” he mentioned. “That isn’t the case but right here.”

Keaney spoke extra frankly: “Manufacturers have to put their cash the place their mouth is. Pleasure comes alongside and there’s a number of adspend in that interval, and we welcome that, however there’s an entire different bunch of months the place we’re nonetheless current, we’re nonetheless right here.”

Key phrase blocklisting is one other barrier for PinkNews, and a problem that has plagued quite a few premium information retailers for years. Cohen described a number of examples whereby there gave the impression to be a dissonance of expectations between advertisers and PinkNews as a writer. In a single occasion, an advertiser had positioned the acronym “LGBTQ” on a blocklist regardless of additionally planning on doing a website takeover throughout Pleasure Month. In one other, an op-ed written by former Prime Minister Theresa Might was blocked as a result of it mentioned “homophobia”—in truth, it was with regards to tackling and lowering homophobic bullying in faculties. Manufacturers have to be cautious, Cohen warns, of over-blocking and harming publishers of their makes an attempt to keep away from controversial advert placements.

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That mentioned, Cohen approaches his request of proportionate adspend with pragmatism in thoughts. He admitted that, whereas some manufacturers search to take sturdy pro-LGBTQ+ stances as a part of their model id methods, others are extra impartial. “I believe that that’s okay,” he provided. “As a result of in case you are a grocery store or a financial institution or a automotive model, it is advisable to discuss to our viewers and it is advisable to discuss to all the opposite audiences that exist. It’s nearly ensuring the spend is spent proportionately.”

However, to Cohen, there’s a sturdy enterprise case for manufacturers to promote to the queer neighborhood. “We as LGBTQ+ shoppers and our allies have large spending energy. So discuss to us all 12 months spherical,” he mentioned. “But additionally bear in mind it’s not simply us. It’s our household, it’s our pals; an enormous proportion of the PinkNews net viewers, and particularly on Fb, are the mums of LGBTQ+ folks.

“There’s hundreds of thousands of individuals like that every one around the globe.”


The Way forward for Manufacturers 2023 panel with Benjamin Cohen and Nic Keaney was chaired by Ozone chief technique officer Dora Michail-Clendinnen on 25 April. For extra on our occasions, together with our upcoming The Way forward for Media convention, try our occasions portal.