The name PinkNews has been something of a lightning rod for controversy in recent months. But when Benjamin Cohen founded what was until recently called “Europe’s Largest Gay News Service” in 2005, a number of businesses an d organization used the word “Pink” in the title to express their alignment with and commitment to the LGBT community.
Recent critics fret that the color pink is a means of stereotyping gay men as effeminate. Cohen contends that these critics don’t know their history. The horrors of German concentration camps leading up to and during World War II weren’t solely reserved for Jews and political dissenters. In fact, more than 50,000 gay men were arrested and placed in concentration camps. While there, they were made to wear a downward pointing pink triangle to denote their status.
The name PinkNews was a way to reclaim that history. It was, as Cohen says, “a reminder to my team that day in, day out, they’re holding people’s memories, they’re doing this to maintain the memories of the thousands of people who have been murdered for being gay and that’s why it’s really important.”
The world was a very different place when Cohen first started PinkNews, almost accidentally, by writing a handful of articles about LGBT issues that garnered a great deal of attention and interest. In 2005, almost every household in the UK suddenly had access to broadband, and civil partnerships for gay couples were right around the corner; there was plenty to write about and the internet provided the means of making this information available the moment it happened without the printing and distribution costs of a traditional publication.
“What I wanted to do with Pink News,” Cohen explained, “was create a media company that would reflect the new, more accepted and mature face of the LGBT community. Up until that point every single LGBT media in the UK contained adult content and adult advertising of some description. I wanted to create something that would never do that and would be just as suitable to be read at home as in the office and would be just as suitable to be read by LGBT people as straight people.”
Fast forward just 10 years and PinkNews regularly receives between five and seven million viewers per month–a readership that extends well beyond the boundaries of the United Kingdom. In fact, Cohen breaks down PinkNews readership as roughly 40% UK 40% US, with the rest of the world–led by Ireland, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand–making up the final 20 percent. These numbers are inspiring PinkNews, with Cohen at the helm overseeing both advertising and editorial direction, to make a serious push into the US market.
They’ve started by expanding their editorial teams beyond London and Newcastle and into San Francisco, with Washington DC and New York soon to follow. While the US readership may seem significant, Cohen estimates that PinkNews is really only reaching about 5% of the target market, whereas within the UK they’ve got a reach of 45 percent. Provided the foray into the American market goes as planned, Cohen has his eye on South America and beyond.
Of course, PinkNews has been covering the US for years. The Supreme Court’s recent marriage equality decision was a huge story, according to Cohen, even if the fact that it was everywhere meant PinkNews didn’t necessarily get the audience it hoped. Looking forward, Cohen thinks that the different states’ responses to the Supreme Court decision will make for a great story, as will the fast-approaching presidential election. The other big story, both in the UK, the US, and elsewhere is about the battle for transgender rights.
“This last 12 months has been a time when transgender issues have become mainstream,” Cohen explained. “When we’ve seen the rise of people like Laverne Cox in the US and the rise of political figures in the UK coming out as trans. Another interview that we published this morning that got a lot of media attention in the UK was about trans people that are in the army so that’s the big area because many of the battles have been won for gay rights in the UK. In the US you’ve still got a long way to go because you can still be fired I think in 24 or 27 states and that’s been illegal in the UK for many years. But trans acceptance is still a massive issue.”
And PinkNews isn’t exactly charging forward without a battle strategy either. The publication shed its former tagline designating it “Europe’s Largest Gay News Service” as part of a website and branding redesign that is currently in the works.
“We want to be the world’s leading publication and geographic limitations like Europe don’t make sense to us anymore,” Cohen explained.
And with that new global identity comes a new web address as well. For years, PinkNews was located at www.pinknews.co.uk. What seemed like the most obvious choice–www.pinknews.com–had already been appropriated by a Swedish language newspaper and Cohen insisted that neither .ORG nor .NET felt quite right.
Then the hot-off-the-presses .NEWS extension became available for use in early July, posing the possibility of an exact name match with PinkNews. Cohen found this new possibility appealing for a few reasons. First, unlike their current .CO.UK extension, .NEWS wasn’t linked to any specific geography. Secondly, Cohen was dissatisfied with PinkNews’ Twitter shortener which was “p.ink”. A .NEWS domain would be easier to incorporate into a Twitter shortened that made more sense.
“What will be interesting to see if more publishers hopefully adopt .NEWS and it will become the place to find the latest news,” Cohen mused. “But for us it was great to have a domain name that reflected our name. We are Pink News so it made sense to be Pink.News.”
You can expect to see PinkNews’ full rebrand, including the adoption of the new web address, in the next few weeks. In the meantime, pull up a chair and enjoy the fresh content.