Phillip Picardi joined Out magazine as editor in chief last year and was let go this week by the publication’s parent company, Pride Media. As many as 11 staffers were let go in total, according to employees there.
“It has actually been the most rewarding work of my career to publish this magazine for the past year for and by the L.G.B.T. community, and giving space to people who were previously relegated to the margins,” said Mr. Picardi by phone on Thursday. He said he will continue to write a men’s grooming column for GQ, as well as pursue opportunities outside media.
“The urgency of the L.G.B.T.Q. press is what everyone should be talking about right now, because we’re heading to an election,” he said.
As reported by Women’s Wear Daily, others who will be leaving Pride Media include Zachary Stafford, the editor in chief of The Advocate, an L.G.B.T.Q. publication with a focus on news and politics, and Pride Media’s chief executive, Orlando Reece.
Additional executives are said to be announcing their departures soon. Mr. Reece will stay on through January, while discussions for replacements are in the works.
The influential L.G.B.T.Q. magazine started in 1992 but has faced ongoing financial troubles and recently decreased its print publication from 10 issues a year to six.
Before joining Out, Mr. Picardi, 28, was a rising star at Condé Nast, where he became chief content officer at Teen Vogue, and founded Them, an L.G.B.T.Q.-focused digital platform. In many profiles, he was referred to as the protégé of Condé Nast’s artistic director Anna Wintour.
Both Mr. Picardi and Mr. Stafford were hired in 2018 by Pride Media’s former C.E.O., Nathan Coyle, who resigned from the company in April, less than a year after he joined. Orlando Reece stepped in as interim C.E.O. and was tasked with cutting company expenditures. At the beginning of this year, more than 40 writers, editors and photographers complained publicly in an open letter to the magazine after not receiving payment for their work. In May, the Daily Beast reported that Mr. Picardi threatened to quit if the freelancers weren’t compensated.
The departures of Mr. Picardi and Mr. Stafford comes after layoffs at Pride Media throughout the year. Mr. Stafford declined to comment, as he was on a plane. Out now has five full time editorial employees, down from around 15 in January, according to former staffers. Adam Levin, who owns Pride Media through Oreva Capital, a private equity firm, did not respond to inquiries.
“Philip was entering a house on fire,” said Jason Lamphier, who was an executive editor at Out for two years and worked with the magazine for more than a decade. (He did not work there concurrently with Mr. Picardi.) “You could have the best intentions, you could have this young motivated team, but they had no idea what they were walking into,” he said.
“Phillip was taking on something that could be really rewarding, but only if the people that own that magazine have and share the same interest as the team,” said Aaron Hicklin, a former editor in chief of Out, who held that position for 12 years. “I think it’s clear that, despite other issues, fundamentally, there was a misalignment between the top ownership, and they didn’t seem interested in what Out represented.”
According to an internal company email sent by Mr. Reece to his staff, digital traffic for Pride Media’s titles was up 47 percent this year, with digital revenues up 31 percent.
At a time when many mainstream magazines and digital publications are struggling, with editors decamping for other career paths, the layoffs sent out ripples of anxiety about the state of L.G.B.T.Q. media in particular.
Several current and past Pride Media staffers also expressed concerns that as mainstream publications expanded their coverage of L.G.B.T.Q. content, the publications that have catered to these audiences from the beginning have suffered.
“We happen to be in this wonderful rainbow wave right now, but as mainstream media latches onto L.G.B.T. narratives across the board, we have to ask ourselves, what is that going to look like in 10 years?” said David Artavia, a managing editor at The Advocate. “We better hope we’re still here, because the work is so vital.”
Scott Gatz, the founder and C.E.O. of Q. Digital, another media company focused on the L.G.B.T.Q. community, said the dramatic downsizing of Pride Media was “not a warning bell” for L.G.B.T.Q. publications.
“The biggest change is the change everyone is going through — from print to digital,” he said. “Pride Media did a really good job of going to digital, but it is heavily print.”
He added that Q. Digital had its best year for revenue and profit yet, and that “demand for L.G.B.T.Q. information is higher than it’s ever been.”
“Out and Advocate are two incredibly strong brands,” Mr. Gatz said. “They may not look the way they looked earlier this year, they may be owned differently, but we’re all rooting for the people that work on these brands for their future, and I don’t question that there will be a strong future for them.”