Almost overnight, Grindr, the dating app popular with gay men, has become one of America’s largest LGBTQ publishers
They’re here, they’re queer and people are using it.
Long before Tinder and Hinge, there was Grindr. The dating app for gay men was founded in 2009 and its pioneering use of geolocation technology enabling users to find suitable matches in their vicinity became a sign of things to come. Though the competition is stiffer these days with the rise of dedicated LGBTQ apps like Her and primarily heterosexual platforms becoming more queer-friendly, Grindr is still a heavyweight. It has users in every country in the world and an active user base of 3.3 million.
But that, increasingly, isn’t enough. In August, Grindr announced the launch of Into, an online news platform for LGBTQ stories. “We heard from our users that there just wasn’t a place for them to engage with content relevant to them,” Peter Sloterdyk, Grindr’s vice president of marketing, tells Moneyish. Since about three quarters of Grindr users are millennials, traditional dedicated publishers like the Advocate can seem stodgy. They also tend to cater to a narrow audience of white gay men, while Into is intended to be more inclusive.
It’s not unusual for dating apps to branch out of their core space. Bumble, for instance, offers business networking and platonic matchmaking options. Grindr has a “Gaymoji” keyboard for sale at $3.99 and campaigns for gay rights globally. But as new media darlings like Facebook and Twitter try to fend off the moniker of “media company,” with its associations to a beleaguered industry, Grindr is embracing its new identity as a publisher. “Grindr is a utility,” says Sloterdyk. “It’s the way for users to discover and navigate the world around them. These are all new ways to be more robust for our audience.”
In less than six months, Into has become a mainstay. According to Sloterdyk, Into pulls in between 3.5 million to 4 million unique readers a month. By some measures, it is already one of the top five gay websites in the country, just behind The Advocate and Out. But Into doesn’t just push “branded content.” The website runs a mix of short hits and reportage including exposés on queer life in homophobic Russia and an attempt by a small Tennessee town to ban drag queens. Grindr’s technology helps direct readers to relevant content, so users may also get push notifications to stories important to their geographic location.
Of course, large numbers aren’t enough. Buzzfeed and Vice reportedly missed their revenue targets in 2017, while Mashable recently sold for just $50 million— a fraction of what it was once worth. Condé Nast, the publisher of Vogue, Vanity Fair and the New Yorker, also recently launched them, a LGBTQ website aimed at a similar audience as Into’s.
However, Sloterdyk is relatively sanguine about Into’s financial future. “There is an incredible amount of buying power and influence within the LGBTQ community,” he says. “Brands and publishers are starting to recognize the opportunity.” According to one survey, the U.S. LGBTQ community spent almost $1 trillion dollars in 2015. (Chinese game maker Beijing Kunlun Tech Co. this year bought the remaining 38% of Grindr it didn’t already own for $152 million, valuing the company at $400 million.)
Into also serves a bigger business purpose. Back in 2009, Grindr competed against fewer dating apps and sources of distraction in general. That’s changed rapidly. At the same time, some older Grindr users have paired up, giving them less reason to use a dating platform. Thus, Into serves as a way to keep them engaged. “Instead of leaving the app entirely, they use it differently,” Sloterdyk says. “They use it for restaurant recommendations and trend updates. They donate to philanthropy. There are ways to use the app with different lifestyles.”
So is Into a loss leader or expected to turn a profit? “In a perfect world, Into will stand completely on its own,” says Sloterdyk. “But right now, it’s benefiting from being embedded in the ecosystem. Grindr is becoming a media company and everything is complementary and working today.”
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