“The empowerment of individuals and small groups is incredibly positive and has led to much needed disruption of multiple industries, including media.”
Tag Warner, CEO, Gay Times
The annual Stylus Look Ahead report is an opportunity to spotlight the forward-thinking Industry Insiders who will matter in 2022. These are the people and businesses already taking steps towards creating a better future through their work, spanning Stylus’ core areas of research – our Innovation Platforms: Sustainable Futures, Wraparound Wellness, Digital Worlds, Inclusivity Outlook, Luxury Perspectives and Convenience Culture.
This year’s insiders collective is full of inspiring leaders spanning multiple industries – but what makes an Industry Insider? To answer that question, we wanted to spotlight some of these inspiring leaders, starting with Tag Warner, CEO of Gay Times (GT) and one of our selected Inclusivity Outlook Industry Insiders.
GT has a rich history, starting out as a magazine that gave representation to the LGBTQ+ community at a particularly socially and politically challenging time. You took over the role of CEO in 2019, helping to transform it into what we see now – a global platform that represents, connects and supports today’s diverse array of talent and voices in the LGBTQ+ community.
How have you harnessed digitisation to modernise GT, and push the boundaries of LGBTQ+ media?
The digitisation of our brand was an essential first step in broadening our opportunities and allowing us to connect with millions more LGBTQ+ people worldwide. Now we've established that leading presence digitally in numerous demographics and markets, we're excited to see how we can create new experiences to enhance the lives of all LGBTQ+ people. I believe we are on the cusp of significant digital change in media, and I'm excited to be at the forefront of this for queer consumers.
How has this helped GT open up the world of media to LGBTQ+ communities and increase their representation, given it has over a million followers across its social media channels?
Hugely. There has always been a long-discussed problem in traditional formats of 'what sells on the newsstand?' When you are always serving the default audience, it is clear that many parts of the community will go underrepresented. Removing that restraint and serving audiences with diverse success measures has liberated us of those old rules of media. I've been fascinated to watch this play out in other media sectors like original video; where numerous formats and ideas have found huge success and reach on streaming, where traditional TV networks had dismissed them for being too niche.
“The future of digital is where I spend the majority of my strategic thinking. The accomplishments our audience see today are a result of deep-rooted strategic decisions made years ago. It’s the behind-the-scenes work today I’m most excited about.”
Tag Warner, CEO, Gay Times
In 2021 you launched GT133; your collective of creators who make exclusive content for your newly launched TikTok channel. Can you tell us a bit about who they are, what they do, and how you see GT expanding through their efforts?
Our audience connect with a group of young queer people in their coming-of-age years – that's what GT133 is all about. We see the different members surface various topics, from serious to funny, in a way that feels true to them and links into the wider Gay Times content vision. The result is a deeply engaged format that our audience can relate to. Rather than simply seeing a brand, they see faces.
Giving the power back to creators, especially Gen Z creators, is allowing for more honest and frank conversations to enter the mainstream. How do you think this community-led approach will develop?
The creator economy is storming ahead. Our future ambition for GT133 is to see them appearing on more platforms and in more mediums than only TikTok videos. We have recently onboarded Gen Z content producers specifically to work with them, so it remains authentic and natural. The empowerment of individuals and small groups is incredibly positive and has led to much needed disruption of multiple industries, including media.
In the spirit of championing future innovation, are there any other creators in the digital LGBTQ+ space you’d like to shine the spotlight on?
The media company Gal-dem, which is focused on telling stories from people of colour of marginalised genders. I’ve always been so engaged by their content, especially because it looks to right the imbalance of media in the UK that favours white perspectives. And George Jasper Stone, an incredible CGI artist who just led the creation of three insane worlds with other queer artists for the covers of Gay Times Magazine.
Visit Gay Times to see for yourself what pertinent initiatives and news in the LGBTQ+ space are being platformed. As one of our Look Ahead Industry Insiders to watch in 2022, there are certainly more exciting things to come.