Sophie Chen
Apr 3, 2013

Will a gay magazine survive in Singapore?

SINGAPORE - Element, the yet-to-launch gay magazine in Singapore is causing a stir, given that homosexuality is still technically illegal in the Southeast Asian city-state. However, Hirokazu Mizuhara, the founder of the magazine, believes “there is a need for us to be here”.

The first issue will include feature stories like
The first issue will include feature stories like "The afterlife of HIV+"

The bi-monthly magazine, calling itself as the “voice of gay Asia”, is set to launch early this month. To address issues relevant to the gay community, Mizuhara told Campaign Asia-Pacific: “There is no proper high-fashion lifestyle publication targeting the Asian gay community, despite the fact that gay men are second to the female market in terms of their consumption and spending behaviour.”

Published by Epic Media, a Singapore-based independent media company, the magazine will only be available online for US$1.99 per issue through the Apple and Android application stores.

Emman Ordinanza, director SEA at Starcom Singapore, thinks this is the best route to penetrate the market, considering Singapore's strict regulations on such content.

“Regulations and licencing on digital is not difficult to achieve versus putting this into print, plus versus a very traditional and conservative culture of the market,” he said. “Our market, however, is digital savvy, so exposure and awareness will surely meet.”

When it comes to its marketing strategy, Mizuhara said it will mainly focus on online as well, combined with offline marketing and PR events.

Ordinanza suggested that its campaign messaging should be targeted, and it should offer overflowing interesting content, complemented by events and community movements.

At the moment, a themed night party in collaboration with one of the hottest gay clubs in Singapore is in preparation, according to Mizuhara.

As the magazine will cover aspects from fashion to grooming, lifestyle, travel, fitness and entertainment, Mizuhara said they are looking at advertisers from both “mainstream business and brands, as well as businesses targeting only the pink market”.

British fashion brand Paul Smith and Avalon, a glamorous nightclub in Singapore, have already signed up for advertising.

Considering the magazine’s nature, advertisers may be hesitant to involve themselves, but Adam Hemming, managing director of ZenithOptimedia Singapore, doesn’t think it’s going to be an issue.

“Singaporeans are forward thinking on this topic,” he explained. “I think most advertisers will be more interested in the potential spending power of the audience than their sexual preferences.”

Hemming also pointed out that its digital-only approach is interesting, especially as many of their most likely advertisers will be in the luxury sector, a sector that has proved more cautious than most in embracing the opportunities digital that digital brings.

“Having said that, there are plenty of other sectors of advertising that will be attracted to the gay audience who have already embraced digital, such as finance, travel and automotive,” he added.

Speaking of the target markets, Mizuhara said it would focus on a few Asian countries and territories with a high English literacy level, such as Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Hong Kong and Macau. The magazine also aims to tap into the community of Chinese-speaking gay men across borders through a Mandarin version next year.

It’s still early to tell if Element will be a success, but Ordinanza said: “There is high potential to create news and buzz, and eventually, subscription of the content. They should also consider foreigners working in Singapore, as they are more open and likely to subscribe to this."

However, Hemming thinks it depends on how they use the medium. “If they are just planning to place magazine content online, their chances of success are slim,” he said. “If they use the medium to its full potential, e.g. video, links to alternative relevant content and most importantly social features, then they have every chance. The way they use social to connect their readers will be absolutely key.”

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