Journalist Q&A: Matthew Breen, The Advocate

Matthew Breen, editor-in-chief of The Advocate, which turns 45 this year, talks to Emory Sullivan about key issues for the LGBT community and the magazine's tech-savvy readership.

Name: Matthew Breen
Title: Editor-in-chief
Outlet: The Advocate
Preferred contact: editor@advocate.com
Website: Advocate.com

Matthew Breen, editor-in-chief of The Advocate, which turns 45 this year, talks to Emory Sullivan about key issues for the LGBT community and the magazine's tech-savvy readership.

You worked as executive editor for The Advocate before becoming editor-in-chief. How has the magazine changed under your direction?
When I joined The Advocate at the end of 2008, I helped move it from a biweekly to a monthly. Jon Barrett, editor-in-chief at the time, and I implemented new features, including some of our franchise issues, such as "40 Under 40" and "The Gayest Cities in America."

One of the changes I'm particularly fond of is "A Day in Gay America." We did that issue in 2011 with Adam Lambert on the cover. We invited readers to submit a photo of some component of their lives on the same day, so we got this enormous array of insights. We photographed Adam going through his daily routine. He happened to be recording an album, so it was a little different than what the rest of us were doing that day. It was an incredibly popular issue.

How can The Advocate help the LGBT community build political influence?
We strive to maintain high journalism standards, so we're not a watchdog group. You won't see us endorse a GOP candidate this election, but we hope there will be a progressive GOP candidate someday interested in LGBT equality.

Since that's not on the horizon, our focus is to cover the policies of candidates, look at their affiliations, see who's donating to their candidacy, and assess their statements and actions. We provide a platform of information for LGBT views and our readers are left to make up their own minds in their political convictions.

Your audience is tech savvy. How has going digital affected the title?
We passed 1.3 million unique visitors in November, which is more than 25 times what we had about four years ago.

We've grown online by leaps and bounds. Tons of content is going up daily. All mobile and online content is free, so readers who aren't necessarily print subscribers now engage on Advocate.com in a way they weren't able to before.

Our readers are really engaged and active, and very specifically interested in LGBT culture, news, and politics. That investment means our audience members really share whatever they find compelling within their social networks. That puts us in a unique place.

Do you see the title ever going completely online?
As long as subscribers want print we'll produce it. Print is satisfying to a lot of our readers in a way digital isn't. Neither is an afterthought to the other. It's a sentiment shared by a lot of our advertisers who really like that 360-degree approach to having a touchpoint with our audiences online, on mobile, and in print.

Our audience can find us virtually anywhere. Our advertisers can reach them in all of those places, as well.

What are the top issues you will address in 2012?
Marriage equality, of course. The implementation of the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" will be newsworthy, too. People will want to read about soldiers who re-enlist after they've been honorably discharged over "Don't Ask Don't Tell."

You'll also see movement on immigration equality for bi-national gay and lesbian couples. Whether the spouses are permitted to stay in the country as opposite-gender spouses is a big question and that remains to be resolved in a lot of cases, even where people are legally married.

There's inequality in how we are taxed and the way we are or are not able to adopt children. These are all long-running equality questions we will be reporting on in 2012.

What plans do you have to mark the brand's 45th anniversary this year?
Our issues from March through August will look into the history of The Advocate. We also have a special 45th anniversary issue coming out in September. You'll see a lot of the places The Advocate has been in the past and the issues we've covered, such as some of the phenomenal coming-out stories we've done and interviews with politicians who are moving the cause forward. It will be a really nice look into being on the frontlines of LGBT journalism since 1967.

How can PR pros improve their outreach to editors?
There's a bit of a lag in some circles when it comes to the question of print or online. We have really great social media and networking outreach, and if we do an interview for the website, it can be seen by an even greater audience than our print. I'm not sure if PR pros have caught up to the ways in which a good website can spread the news.

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