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July 05, 2000 05:04pm
San Francisco Papers Sponsor Gay Parade
Source: Editor and Publisher.com
by: Joe Nicholson

(SAN FRANCISCO, CA) -- For years, San Francisco's daily newspapers watched with growing frustration as local weeklies and niche publications became bloated with ads each June in editions geared to the city's annual gay pride parade.

But this year, frustration became satisfaction as the San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Examiner jumped into the ad sales pool with profitable 28-page special sections, which were distributed with regular editions two days before the June 25 parade. Forty ads were sold, including a full-page color ad for Tower Records.

"I have seen what the other publications have done with the parade, and I have been very envious," said Bartley C. Green, senior vice president of sales and marketing at the San Francisco Newspaper Agency, which represents both dailies.

This year, the Chronicle also became the nation's first daily to sponsor a gay parade, and it launched multiple parade-related marketing efforts designed to boost lagging readership among gays, who make up 7% to 15% of the regional population, said Debra Hall, the daily's director of promotion. "Demographically, [gays look] like they should be newspaper readers, and we were underperforming," explained Hall.

The Chronicle placed some 50 pink cardboard racks along the parade route and in gay bars. Some 100 staffers wearing T-shirts with the slogan, "We come out every day," marched in a Chronicle contingent behind a pink stretch limo, which bore the name of a gay car-rental agency, Homo Limo.

Steven B. Falk, president and CEO of the San Francisco Newspaper Agency, said he encourages staffers "not [to] be afraid to come up with ideas that in some people's minds might be risky or controversial" and called parade efforts "very successful."

Police estimated 750,000 people attended the four-hour parade, whose 211 contingents competed with an occasional drag queen as well as at least two topless women and several naked men.

Spectators reacted to the Chronicle contingent, said Hall, by exclaiming things like, "Oh, my God, the Chronicle's here!" She added, "That's what we were trying to accomplish." In addition, two Chronicle writers were among commentators during a live parade broadcast on KBWB, a WB network affiliate. At a post-parade celebration, the Chronicle sold 200 subscriptions, which Hall called "a really big sales day for us."

Several hundred miles south, Joe Frederickson, vice president of marketing at The Press-Enterprise in Riverside, Calif., said a newspaper's sponsorship of a local gay parade could be counterproductive: "Put the ad revenue aside for a moment and consider how this would be received by the market as a whole. That will be my very first consideration. In some markets, it might not get past the first consideration."

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