Speirins Media celebrates 5 years of operating OUTinPerth

Five years ago today, OUTinPerth came back to life after a 10-day hiatus, when the news stopped being reported and the website fell silent.

Just over a week earlier the OUTinPerth team were hard at work preparing the magazine’s June edition, and updating the website and social media channels, when they received an unexpected call.

It was a liquidator. The company that owned the publication had gone under, the liquidator was calling to break the news that we were all immediately unemployed. Soon after representatives from the management arrived and we had just minutes to leave the premises, potentially for the last time.

We did what most people do when you lose your job and discover there’s not even a final pay check – we went to the pub, and ordered several rounds of drinks. Thankfully Bree Maddox paid for them all, cause we were both wondering how we’d pay our rent or mortgages the next week.

That was Tuesday, Wednesday was a blur. Frustratingly there was important news for the community, but we couldn’t share it. On Thursday editor Graeme Watson called then-journalist Leigh Andrew Hill and suggested a crazy idea, “What if we ask if we can buy OUTinPerth?”

We went and asked the liquidator if that was a possibility, On Monday they got back to us and told us there had been quite a few publishers interested in the magazine. If we were interested in putting in a bid, it needed to be submitted by 5pm Tuesday, it had to be a five figure bid, and you had to be able to transfer the cash by the following day.

As we were wondering how to pay the rent and our bills, it’s clear that neither of us had the required $10,000+ bid. We worried about the servers being switched off, years of work disappearing, we worried about someone else taking over the publication we’d put our heart and souls into for many years, and changing it into something else.

We asked friends and family if they had any money to spare, “This could be classed as the rainy day you’ve always worried about?”. In 24 hours we’d raised just enough to put slightly more than the minimum a bid, we sent it in. Then we realised it also had to include GST, and we had to go searching for a little more.

“Tuesday night was unbearable. I couldn’t do anything constructive.” Graeme recalls. “On Wednesday at 11am the liquidator called and broke the news, there had been several bids, but we were the top bid. We now owned OUTinPerth’s intellectual property.”

“Within 7 days we’d gone from the news of sudden unemployment, to owning the magazine and website we had been working for,” Leigh adds.

“It had been a rollercoaster ride. We stopped and looked at each other and thought… what have we done! ”

Our first task of business was create a new company to manage OUTinPerth. It’s really hard to come up with a company name. You want something meaningful, but you also want to be able to buy the web domain for $9.90 if possible. After a lot of brainstorming we named our new entity Speirins Media.

The word ‘spierins’ is Gaelic. It means News or Information. Not so much in the formal journalism sense, more in the chat you have with your neighbour over the fence. We chose a Gaelic word to note our shared Scottish ancestry, and the support of our individual families who encouraged us to embark on this journey.

OUTinPerth was out of action for 10 days in 2016. We only missed one edition of the printed magazine, returning to production in July 2016 and we brought out an edition every four weeks up until its retirement in January 2019.

Since relaunching 3.5 million unique sessions have been logged on the website, and we’ve published thousands of stories about news, culture, arts, the local communities, and a wide array of other topics from a queer, West Australian perspective.

Surviving the last five years has come with a mountain of help from our readers who have contributed to GoFundMe campaigns and signed up to Patreon to provide financial support. Local businesses have chosen us to help promote their services and brought much needed funds to allow us to operate. We’re still going strong today thanks to your generous support and donations. We can’t thank you enough.

Along the way, we’ve broken some major news stories that have gone on to be covered by the mainstream media both in Australia and internationally. We’ve covered Australia’s historic fight for marriage equality, and provided much needed balance to national discourse surrounding transgender rights, which is too often led by conservative publications who willfully ignore medical experts and the lived experience of trans and gender diverse Australians.

We made the transformation to being digital only in the beginning of 2019. At the time our cloud-based, digital nomad, work-from-home model seemed unusual to many people. Twelve months later as the world went into lockdown, everyone was asking us for tips!

Over the last five years we’ve won awards for our reporting, spoken at major events, lectured at universities, and been called on to provide comment on important issues to the LGBTQIA+ communities on radio and television.

Our greatest reward, however, has been the individual stories people have told us, whether through interviews, collaborations, or just readers individual experiences they’ve shared with us about coming out, finding family and community, or finding their voice.

Today we celebrate 5 years. The truth is, in the midst of COVID-19 and post-JobKeeper, it’s never been harder to secure advertising in a queer publication, and while large media companies are signing deals with search engines and social media companies, small independent media companies are still doing it tough.

Today Speirins Media is five, and next year OUTinPerth will mark its 20th anniversary of serving LGBTQIA+ communities in Perth, WA and across Australia. Onwards we go!


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or contributing to ourĀ GoFundMe campaign.

 

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