Grindr Is Nobody’s Friend

Since it was shuttered in early 2019, the LGBTQ-themed website Into, launched by Grindr, has frequently been positioned as a media casualty, evidence of the shambolic state of queer publishing (and perhaps the shambolic state of media, period). A sprawling 2019 Buzzfeed article by former Into managing editor Trish Bendix used her layoff as a…

Grindr Is Nobody’s Friend

Since it was shuttered in early 2019, the LGBTQ-themed website Into, launched by Grindr, has frequently been positioned as a media casualty, evidence of the shambolic state of queer publishing (and perhaps the shambolic state of media, period). A sprawling 2019 Buzzfeed article by former Into managing editor Trish Bendix used her layoff as a jumping-off point to explore the state (as well as history and apparently bleak future) of LGBTQ media. More recently, a piece in Mel (a site launched by Dollar Shave Club, which is a fact I would like you to keep in your head while you read this), contextualized the disintegration of Into within a bigger picture of upheavals and downsizing at such queer and queer-adjacent outlets as Out, The Advocate, Instinct, them, and Mic. It is not absurd to survey the landscape and report back that the earth has been scorched. It has been. It’s curious to witness a queer-media drought at a time when queer people are more visible (and perhaps more numerous, at least in terms of those who are out) than ever. In the absence of extensive data, we can only guess whether the problem is overall reader apathy, disinterest in reading about niche queer content, or issues with the specific content that has been published. None of the sites mentioned were doing consistent blockbuster numbers, regardless of whatever upswings or momentum they may have achieved via editorial tinkering. Perhaps the straight men who have acquired some of these companies (like Grindr and Pride Media, which runs Out and The Advocate) don’t possess the patience for proper growth. Patience and empathy rarely factor into co-opting. Maybe they expected more than what they got, and hey, millionaires have to stay millionaires so tough decisions must be made.The aforementioned Mel story is pegged to a Grindr editorial relaunch of sorts, the embarrassingly titled website Bloop. Creating a new site seems like an objectively shitty move, as it comes a little more than a year after Grindr shuttered its news and culture site in order to, it said in so many words, pivot to video. And here’s a new site driven by words (though they are pithier and not as journalistically inclined as Into was). Sometimes the earth is scorched by arson. But in the posthumous assessment of what Into’s demise meant for queer culture and media, a point that I rarely see made or given any serious consideration is that the website was itself a pivot. Into’s story is as much a branding story as a media one. By the mid-’10s, former Grindr CEO/mastermind Joel Simkhai and other employees were positioning Grindr as something broader than a hook-up app: a hub for gay culture. A 2016 Vice article quoted Grindr’s press materials announcing the company’s lofty aspiration to be “the preeminent global gay lifestyle brand.” In interviews, Simkhai had long downplayed the function Grindr was best-known (and, it seems reasonable to assume, most widely used) for: finding casual sex. (“We are also a non-adult service and we’re firm believers in being able to meet people in a non-sexual environment,” he said in an interview with Online Personals Watch in 2010, the year after Grindr debuted.) Into was the company’s most visible and intricate attempt to shed its seedy reputation. It was right there in its pitch, as editor-in-chief Zach St
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