Caryn Goldberg, a professional in gay and lesbian print and online media since 1986, is president of Specialty Publications. Her company publishes best-selling gay adult magazines Men and Freshmen, among others, and runs the Websites MenMagazine.com, Freshmen.com, Unzipped.net, 2mag.net, MenCyberClub.com, ClubFreshmen.com, and BuyGay.com.
Her road, however, has not always been so - if you'll pardon us - broad.
"This doesn't happen so much any more," she amends, "because I've been doing this for a long time - but at the beginning I got a little of the, 'What is she doing running this company?' Even among staff members I got a little bit of the, 'You don't know what you're talking about, you're a lesbian. How can you tell us what works and what doesn't?'"
Now, however, those very attributes are the ones that work for Goldberg. "Being a woman in the [gay Internet industry] makes me a novelty act, and everybody knows me. Even people who don't know me know it must be me. It's so funny; people will come up to my partner, Jane, and say, 'Oh, you must be Caryn,' because she's a woman in the room."
One of the continual pitfalls, Goldberg acknowledges, is "Managing men. Different communication styles, issues with female authority - it's just tough.
"I'm very fortunate on the one hand, running a gay men's magazine, because my personal tastes [don't effect the product]. If I think a guy is cute and put him on the cover, he's cute. If a lesbian finds him sexy, he's sexy. And there have been times when I'll get into arguments with editorial where they'll go, 'Oh, but he's so cuuuuuute.' And I'll be like, 'Nnnno, he really isn't.' Then they'll say, 'But he's my type!' A-ha. That's very different.
"Well, none of them are 'my type.' 'My type' is girls.
"I think the other [good] part of it is nobody thinks I want to sleep with them, or is competitive with me for guys, and the pissing contest thing is gone."
When Specialty took the "one small step/one giant leap" of bringing magazine mainstays Men and Freshmen to the Internet, there were a lot of things to consider.
"We wanted to do it in a way that wouldn't jeopardize our core business," explains Goldberg. "First and foremost, we think of ourselves as a print publication. There are 27 people on staff, and maybe seven work on the Internet. The profits for the company are around 80 percent on the print side. Yet we realize that we have to be [on the Net], too.
"So how do we make [both sides] complimentary and not competitive? How can we get someone to subscribe to the magazine, continue to subscribe to the magazine, and then also buy a membership on the site?"
Goldberg counts having an unlimited amount of advertising space in the Specialty mags of the same brand as a huge advantage. "In the magazines, we'll run a layout of a model, and at the end of it we'll say, 'If you'd like to see more of Brian, join Men's cyber club and see 50 more images.' That seems to have worked. A large percentage of our members online are also subscribers. With all the talk about traffic, and 'how do we get more traffic,' blah blah blah, well, we get it from our core subscribers to the magazine."
Specialty is, of course, also invested in acquiring new traffic, and has expanded the sites to include outside content. "We add outside content that seems to fit the site," says Goldberg, "and that's helping our retention and signup rates.
"Everything we put on the site has to be of a quality to reflect the brand. In a way, we're boxed in by a brand that's so well established." She reasons that all content has to be of a particular look and feel, and so the anything/everything megasite model isn't one that would ever work for Specialty.
Otherwise, "We do banner exchanges and we participate in rev shares and we have an exit console and we get on other people's exit consoles and we do all the things you're supposed to do.
"The toughest part," Goldberg remembers about building the sites, "was being willing to take staff resources and capital away from these very successful magazines that were number one in their category and had been around for - Men magazine is coming up on its 20th anniversary. We had to say, 'Okay, we're going to take a little time and money away from that... hope nothing bad happens there... ' and then get into the Internet three years after all the major sites, like Badpuppy and Bedfellow and everything else, were already out there."
That she's a lesbian making a success of gay porn begs the question about the viability of lesbian porn. But Goldberg doesn't believe there's that much of a market. "Here's the thing. You know the cartoon that shows the male brain, and it says, '97 percent sex, 3 percent everything else,' and then it shows the female brain and it's the opposite? I think women dabble in [adult product], because that's about how much sex plays a role in their minds and attention spans and thinking. But would they sign up month after month after month and every day go online and see the images and every day get a subscription to the magazine and then move onto the next site because they're bored with the old one - I just don't think we're built that way. The most sex-pig women I know are not built that way.
"I even think, myself, before I got into the industry - I was always sex positive and pornography positive. But again, it would only take up a little bit of my thought. Occasionally it would be fun to rent an adult video, back in the old days when you couldn't see them everywhere; when I first found out there was sex on the Internet, occasionally it would be interesting to go looking for it. But not like men.
"I also think women think about sex in terms of relationships - not necessarily long-term relationships, just with another person." It's the relationship to the partner - be it a stranger, a friend, a one-night stand - that drives a woman's erotic imagination. Goldberg thinks that's why women are drawn to dirty stories, "because they are about an encounter. But a photo of a naked woman? It's nice, but what's the story? How do I get into it? What's the trigger? What's sexy about it?"
As far as the future is concerned, Goldberg expects from Specialty Publications "more and more of the same. We'll be figuring out more ways to entertain gay men sexually. We're starting to produce videos. We've just produced two: One's a solo jerk-off movie called Men Magazine Live; it features some Men models. We're using it as a premium; you know, 'Subscribe to the magazine, get this free video.' 2 magazine is our newest magazine, and we just did a hardcore vid directed by Chi Chi LaRue which is brilliant, which absolutely is one of the best porn videos I've ever seen. Again, we're going to use that as a subscription premium. But once that little campaign is over, we're going to release them on DVD with galleries and extras and all that stuff. And we might, at some point, get into producing more videos, because it's probably the one place where we're not... there. We're selling videos, other people's videos, but it's the one thing we don't manufacture, and we have a store to sell it in. That's really a great business package. So: how to make more money satisfying gay mens' insatiable sexual appetites."
For those new to the gay adult Internet industry, Goldberg has this advice. "Get to know everybody. Get connected. Come to the parties. Drink with people. Eat with people. Talk to people. Find even the littlest area where you might connect."
Everyone's a possible partner, according to Goldberg, not to mention "the other part of it is synergy. Fortunately, [our customers] have this insatiable appetite. So it's not like there's not enough of the pie to divide up. I don't think we've even seen the edges of the pie. I don't think we've see the crust. It's not like, if customers join your site they won't join my site. No, they'll spend three-and-a-half months on your site, and then they'll join my site. And then sooner or later they'll quit my site, and come back. It's not like they're ever going to say, 'Oh, I've had enough sex.' Or, 'I bought a video. I don't need any more videos.' It's more like, 'Keep it comin'!"