BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
A popular South Florida gay website announced Monday it will launch a companion weekly magazine and biweekly newspaper following the sudden closure Sunday of the nation's largest gay newspaper group.
Multimedia Platforms of Oakland Park, which co-owns South Florida-based Mark's List, a gay website with about 5,000 unique visitors daily, next week will launch Mark's List Magazine, a Florida bar and entertainment guide. A newspaper, still unnamed, will begin Nov. 26, said Bobby Blair, managing partner and founder of Multimedia Platforms.
"Our focus for the future, and the importance of this transaction, is owning the No. 1 LGBT website," Blair said. "It will certainly sustain our print operation and also will grow."
Washington, D.C.-based Window Media and sister company Unite Media on Sunday announced plans to file for bankruptcy, immediately shutting down its papers and magazines in Wilton Manors, Houston, Atlanta and Washington. Last year, the U.S. Small Business Administration took control of Window Media/Unite Media's majority stockholder, financially troubled New York-based Avalon Equity Partners.
Blair's group had been negotiating since September with Avalon Equity to purchase the company's South Florida properties, The South Florida Blade newspaper and 411 magazine, a bar guide. The Blade printed 8,500 copies a week; 411 printed 12,500, according to Blair.
Multimedia Platforms put $250,000 in escrow with Wilton Manors attorney Dean Trantalis. Blair and his partners had planned to buy The Blade and 411 for $175,000 and invest the rest in the business, he said.
Window Media/Unite Media decided to filed for bankruptcy after its owners decided to stop putting money in the company, Blair said.
That's when Multimedia Platforms decided "we don't need them anymore," said Mark Haines, founder of Mark's List, who recently sold half his company to Blair's group.
Multimedia Platforms quickly decided to take the money held in escrow and use it to start a new newspaper and magazine, Haines said.
First order of business: hire all the displaced workers at The Blade and 411.
"We have everything we need," Haines said. "We have all the contacts, telephone numbers, everything we need to go forward."
When the newspaper launches, it will emphasize feature stories rather than hard news.
"We're going to make sure it becomes more topical, more lifestyle oriented and more specific to South Florida. A real estate section, movie reviews, restaurant reviews," Blair said.
The Blade, a money loser, is history. A final issue of profitable 411 -- already completed before Window Media/Unite Media locked out its workers -- will hit the newsstands Thursday, he said.
South Florida's gay media market has been in flux for a decade. South Florida's oldest gay newspaper, TWN (The Weekly News), ran out of money and shut down after 29 years in March 2006.
In 2003, Broward attorney Norm Kent sold his 3-year-old, Broward-based Express Gay News to Window Media/Unite Media, which renamed it The South Florida Blade.
Blair believes that despite universal troubles in the media world, his group can make a success of the expanded Mark's List brand.
"You have a tremendous amount of LGBT-friendly businesses who would love to reach out to the powerful LGBT buying power," Blair said. "That will bode well for growth. They will want to place ads in our publication."