New Sydney Weekly for 'Sexual Fringe Dwellers'

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SYDNEY -- A new and very different newspaper called Sydney Organ has hit the streets here. The weekly freebie is aimed at Sydney's "sexual fringe dwellers" -- people who don't fit the gay, lesbian, bi or straight mould. Publisher Lawrence Gibbons describes them as "trysexual".

"They'll try anything but don't necessarily identify with any particular group. At the moment these people, and there are quite a few of them in this town, don't have any media outlet," Mr. Gibbons explains.

Sydney Organ's 25,000 weekly copies, to be distributed in bars, cafes and shops across Sydney, is the latest weapon to be wheeled out in a publishing war within Sydney's gay and lesbian media world. The conflict, complete with staff walkouts, an endless trail of gossip and nonexistent profit margins, is already turning bloody. Sydney now has four such free weekly publications fighting for a slice of an annual ad market worth little more than $3 million. With each paper costing around $1 million a year to produce, a battle to the death is looming.

Editors are putting more flesh on the covers of the papers in a bid to entice readers and the advertisers they attract. So far advertising support has been strong for all the papers, buoyed by the huge marketing potential of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. However, post-Mardi Gras, all the publishers agree one of them has to go. The battle began with the collapse last year of the "pink" media and property company The Satellite Group, which resulted in the closure of a free weekly gay and lesbian newspaper in Sydney called Capital Q.

Capital Q's entire staff were then approached by another media company, Alternative Media Group, half owned by Mr. Gibbons, to start a new paper called G. Capital Q editor Martin de Courtenay and his 12 staff jumped at the opportunity. Six weeks after its launch, G's staff, led by Mr. de Courtenay, walked. "We felt the publisher wasn't putting the resources into the product. We [the staff] were approached by another backer from Brisbane (IT executives Mark Anthony and Dean Bell) and offered to launch another paper called SX," says Mr. de Courtenay. Mr. Gibbons and G were left staffless and in a financial mess.

Sydney Star Observer Editor Marcus O'Donnel has been a keen observer of the publishing shenanigans. "The new papers haven't really had an impact on our business," Mr. O'Donnell says. "We're pretty confident of our future ...after 22 years we are widely considered the journal of record for the Sydney gay and lesbian community."

Copyright March 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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