One of the oldest news publications of its kind is making history once again as it propels into the 21st century with a revolutionary multimedia experience.
Pittsburgh’s Out, now in its 39th year of publication, has entered the world of broadcast via the Internet with OutTV Pittsburgh (OTV), a daily lineup of live shows filmed and produced by Out personnel and featuring a variety of performers and guests from around the region. (Go to outonline.com.)
Out Publisher Tony-Molnar-Strejcek, who has published the newspaper for 16 years, said OTV resulted from his efforts to redesign the paper’s website, which has existed since the mid 1990s.
“I wanted to have a very strong, regional website presence,” Molnar-Strejcek said.
In his efforts to improve the website, Molnar-Strejcek began looking for a new webmaster about two years ago. His search ended when he found David Stanton of Polish Hill, whose creative talent and video production experience inspired the idea for live broadcasts.
“The idea of videos never really came up until I met David,” Molnar-Strejcek said. “We wanted to come up with a new way of reaching the LGBT community not just in Pittsburgh, but throughout the world.”
And reach the world they have—at least according to the statistical response from viewers since the broadcasts began in June, 2008.
Stanton, who directs and produces the site’s audio and video content, estimated that the site gets up to 8,000 visitors a day. Viewers from Amsterdam, the United Kingdom and even China regularly visit the site and interact with guests, hosts and performers, Stanton said.
“I think the best part about the site is that the shows are done live,” Stanton said. “We have live chat rooms and call-ins, where viewers can interact and actually be part of the show.”
Stanton’s inspiration for OTV actually came from his own experience producing LGBT videos. Stanton earned associate degrees in Music Video Production and Business from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, and he used his education to shoot and produce his own show entitled Gay Life TV, a broadcast devoted to capturing and chronicling the lives of LGBT Pittsburghers.
Stanton said he and his colleague, Brian T, who hosts the popular Brian T. World for OTV, produced Gay Life from his home in Polish Hill.
Throughout his experience, Stanton said he was exposed to a wealth of local talent that he felt was getting less than its fair share of exposure.
“While I was doing Gay Life TV, I saw a lot of talent in Pittsburgh that was underutilized,” Stanton said, “and my mission is to preserve, protect and exhibit LGBT video history.”
Stanton’s mission eventually continued with Out after he answered an employment ad for website designer that Molnar-Strejcek placed in the print version of the newspaper.
Not long after taking on his web design duties, Stanton said Molnar-Strejcek discovered he was producing Gay Life, which prompted the idea of live broadcasts from the paper’s website.
“Tony didn’t even realize at first that I was doing Gay Life TV, and I knew no one else was doing live shows at the time,” Stanton said. “It really took off, and I’m so happy and thankful that we thought of something no one else was doing.”
The live video production for OTV began from Stanton’s home in 2008, where it remained until the entire studio was moved to the offices of Out Publishing late last summer.
Molnar-Strejcek said the lineup includes a diverse list of talk and variety shows aimed at educating, informing and entertaining the LGBT community.
“What we’re trying to do is reach all different types of people within the LGBT community,” he said. “We live everywhere. The gay ghetto does not exist in Pittsburgh.”
As production of the shows continue, so does their demand and popularity.
Molnar-Strejcek said the network’s flagship show, Talk It Out, which he co-hosts with Stanton, was actually moved from a weekly to a daily broadcast because of its popularity and appeal. The daily talk show airs every weekday at noon and features a variety of LGBT-related topics ranging from the day’s top news stories to “Fun Fridays,” which features co-host Lisel Forst via Skype from Canada.
“Because the show also has an international audience, we try to cover as much local, national and international news as possible during our daily broadcasts to reach as many people as we can,” Molnar-Strejcek said.
Other broadcasts, Stanton said, cater to individual groups within the LGBT community.
Tranz-It, for example, is a talk/variety show that airs every Monday at 2 pm, covering a wide range of transgendered-related topics and issues.
Hosted by Damanda Dollar and fAe gibson, the show features a mixture of humorous and serious content, including news, interviews, cooking segments and entertainment.
Every Tuesday at 2 pm, lesbians and their friends can join hosts Becky Potter and Daneen Flake for Sister ShOUT, a weekly talk show that covers issues and topics of particular importance to gay women.
Stanton added that the night life crowd can join host Marsha “Monster” Mellow every Wednesday at 2 pm for Out on the Town, a trendy review of the area’s gay bars and other LGBT-friendly establishments and businesses.
Every Wednesday at 6pm, Sidney Alvarez, the hot Latino TV journalist and PR guru, hosts The Real Deal, interviewing equally hot male entertainers.
And there’s a new medical show in the works, Positive Outlook, which will focus on medical news for the LGBT community. It airs in July.
As Pittsburgh’s Out prepares to enter its fifth decade of publication, it does so during a time when newspapers in general are suffering the adverse effects of technology and an uncertain economic future.
Unlike many newspapers in general, however, Molnar-Strejcek said Out has yet to see anything but growth and improvement, partially as a result of its venture into the world of live broadcasts.
Circulation numbers for the print version, he added, are actually increasing, and combining printed material with content published exclusively on the web has enabled the paper to reach a much larger, more diverse audience. He estimated that the print version of the paper reaches approximately 30,000 people monthly, while its web content reaches well over 100,000.
“One of the reasons this has been so successful is because we’re reaching a very niche market,” Molnar-Strejcek said. “The website reaches younger individuals who are checking their e-mails or searching the web on their Smart Phones.”
He added that combining content from the print version and the Internet provides an innovative experience that benefits both facets of the publication.
“The newspaper and the website compliment and basically use one another,” Molnar-Strejcek said.
“The website will reach people that the newspaper could never reach,” he continued. “By using quality content from both print and broadcast, we hope more people learn about the paper, and more people get involved.”
Molnar-Strejcek added that although most of the revenue generated from online broadcasts actually goes back into the company in the form of equipment upgrades and technological improvements, he predicted that the paper will eventually profit from the continued growth of its online content.
“A positive cash flow is very important to any venture, and all of the shows offer financial sponsorship,” Molnar-Strejcek said. “I really think that we will continue to be successful.”
Like Molnar-Strejcek, Stanton also said he believes the phenomenal success OTV has experienced since its debut in 2008 will continue to bring positive change to the paper. He added that the web content has helped to expand Out’s newspaper readership to people outside of Pittsburgh who were previously unaware of its existence.
“So many more people have access to the paper online now,” Stanton said. “Pittsburgh’s Out has become more than just a newspaper, it’s turning into ‘Out Media.’”
Stanton added that Molnar-Strejcek has even had offers for advertising opportunities from people in the United Kingdom.
As he continues his journey with Out, Stanton said he promised to give himself five years to decide whether or not the online venture would be successful. Based on its current progress, Stanton said he fully expects his five-year review to be successful, and looks forward to his future with the company.
“I feel like this was meant to happen, like we’re bringing Out into a new age of production,” Stanton said. “All the cards seem to be falling into the right place. I think this is Out’s natural progression.”
Go to outonline.com to watch Out’s online broadcasts plus read content from each issue of Pittsburgh’s Out.