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Diversity Boston

Standing proud, still

State's largest gay newspaper relies on loyal readers to weather recessions

Jeff Coakley and Sue O'Connell are co-owners and editors of Bay Windows, New England's largest gay publication. Jeff Coakley and Sue O'Connell are co-owners and editors of Bay Windows, New England's largest gay publication. (Photos by Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe)
By Johnny Diaz
Globe Staff / December 5, 2010

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After surviving a battle with its rival and the recession, Bay Windows is now Boston’s only gay newspaper.

For years, Bay Windows, New England’s largest gay publication, was embroiled in a competition with The New England Blade, with both publishing news about the region’s gay community.

But since the Blade closed in 2008, Bay Windows, a free weekly that was started in 1983 and is available at local businesses and news bins, has increased distribution by 2,000 to 20,000. The growth is in part because the tabloid became available in local Shaw’s and Stop & Shop grocery stores. But it is also benefiting from the gap left by its competitor.

Bay Windows’ readers, who are 90 percent gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, want news that matters to them, said Sue O’Connell and Jeff Coakley, Bay Windows owners and publishers since 2003. Recent subjects include the impact of high foreclosure rates on local gay and lesbian home buyers and sellers. The paper, which is between 20 and 44 pages, also publishes a 100-page edition during Gay Pride Week.

“We are not just serving the community, we are the community,’’ said O’Connell, a single lesbian who lives in Canton with her 10-year-old daughter.

Additionally, the paper has gained local advertisers from its former rival. Bay Windows, which declined to give detailed figures, said 95 percent of its advertising comes from area businesses that take out about 100 ads weekly and represent about 75 percent of its revenue.

“Smaller newspapers have a closer bond with readers and advertisers,’’ said Lou Ureneck, a journalism professor at Boston University.

Bay Windows, which has a website, also has borrowed a page from the playbook of other papers across the country. Coakley, who also runs the South End News with O’Connell, said Bay Windows cut costs to survive the downturn. The paper, which has eight employees, reduced its paper size during the recession, cutting about 12 percent in printing costs, and moved its offices from the South End to South Boston to save on rent. The moves, Coakley says, allowed Bay Windows to continue its mission: serving readers.

“Our readers still pick up the paper every week, almost as a political statement,’’ said Coakley, a gay single man who lives in South Boston.