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ONLINE SERVICE PLANET OUT TAPS GAY MAGAZINE EXEC

By Published on .

A leading gay magazine executive is jumping to the online world in hopes of attracting a larger audience and more mainstream marketers than the category's print counterparts have drawn.

Out VP-Publisher Harry Taylor left the magazine last week to join Planet Out, an online gay community with no connections to the magazine, as VP-advertising sales. His optimistic plan is to log 250,000 visitors per month to various versions of the brand through sites on America Online, Microsoft Network and the World Wide Web-by this fall.

That would be more than double the 119,500 circulation of Out, the largest gay publication (see related story on Page 54).

COSTS MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE

"The cost of entry in becoming a publisher online is dramatically lower, the cost of distribution is where the investment is," said Peter Meluso, media director at New York online ad agency i-traffic. "The more affiliations and points of distribution a site gets is critical and AOL does offer a mass audience."

Jonathan Anastas, director of interactive marketing at Saatchi & Saatchi/Pacific, said 250,000 users "sounds a bit ambitious" but added "no place builds a community better than online. If it becomes the definitive gay online service, it could be possible."

He said Mr. Taylor's background makes it "more likely for him to get into our door, as brands and credibility especially matter for online."

Planet Out, launched a little more than a year ago on Microsoft Network by Tom Reilly, is an umbrella service that combines major national gay organizations, some gay publications, shopping and community. It is backed by Sequoia Capital, and AOL Services Co. President Ted Leonsis serves on its board.

The service has not carried advertising since its launch.

"Over the next two weeks we will be developing a strategy to take to the ad market," said Mr. Taylor. "It is about reaching a critical mass and...about the partnership with AOL in terms of content, which will create a comfort level with advertisers."

Mr. Taylor said gay magazines have been unable to grow much beyond circulations of 100,000 because "it is cost prohibitive to encompass every taste for everyone whose only common experience is coming out."

In four years at Out, Mr. Taylor helped lure mainstream marketers like Nike, Levi Strauss & Co. and Apple Computer into gay media.

MORE CHANGES AT GAY MAG

Mr. Taylor's departure coincided with that of jumped to Conde Nast Publications' Details as account manager.

Mr. Taylor's replacement from outside the magazine is expected to be named soon, said President Henry Scott, who will take the title of publisher temporarily.

Seeking to grow its circulation, Out unveiled a redesign with its September issue, began a direct mail campaign and hired a consultancy, Lewit & LeWinter, to develop a strategic ad plan.

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