Gay.com, once one of the most successful and popular websites catering to the gay community, has been donated to the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

In a statement about the acquisition, the Center said that Gay.com “will now direct people to the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s newly launched blog, Vanguard.”

The donation was made by VS Media, which owns the live porn website, Flirt4Free.

“The Los Angeles LGBT Center provides services for more LGBT people than any other organization in the world,” said Flirt4Free Executive Vice President Brad Estes. “I’m very happy to announce that the future of Gay.com will go on within their extraordinary organization.”

Gay.com’s rise and fall since its launch by Mark Elderkin in 1994 illustrates the tumultuous nature of the rapidly evolving media world, and especially that targeting LGBT audiences. Elderkin launched Gay.com just three years after the World Wide Web browser went public. A year later Tom Reilly launched its major competitor, PlanetOut.com, on the Microsoft Network and took it to the World Wide Web and America Online in 1996 with a $3 million investment from Sequoia Capital and American Online. In 2000, the two rivals merged.

On October 14, 2004, PlanetOut went public. Its stock, with a ticker symbol LGBT, traded on the Nasdaq exchange. The next year it bought LPI Media, owner of The Advocate, Out Magazine, HIV Plus and several porn titles, sparking complaints from some that the merger was would result in a restraint of trade in the LGBT publishing market.

By the end of 2006, PlanetOut had reported a loss of $3.7 million on $68.6 million in revenue. Still, it attracted major investments from Allen & Co. and an investment firm associated with Bill Gates. But by 2008 circumstances were so dire that it announced it was selling its assets to Regent Releasing. In 2009, the PlanetOut properties were absorbed into Regent’s Here Network LLC and Regent Entertainment Media LLC. The PlanetOut.com website was closed.

Gay.com’s traffic fell sharply over the years. An analysis by Alexa.com shows it ranks No. 127,634 among all websites in the United States and has a global ranking of 227,364. By contrast, Queerty.com is nearly 32 times higher in traffic with a ranking of 4,020 in the U.S. and 13,434 globally. Even WEHOville.com, a hyperlocal website focused on West Hollywood, has a higher ranking, coming in at No. 39,034 in the United States and 212,919 in the world.

VS Media, the Westmount Village-based live video and chat platform that operates the Flirt4Free live porn website, bought the domain last year saying it wanted to “transform it into something that would provide maximum support for the LGBT community.”

While VS Media integrated porn videos into the Gay.com site, it apparently decided that the tax deduction that would come with a charitable donation was a more lucrative use of Gay.com, According to an announcement from the Center, VS Media reached out to five of the top LGBT charities and asked them “to come up with a proposal detailing how they planned to use the site in order to further their organization while supporting the LGBT community as a whole.”

“We were thrilled to see the enthusiasm and ideas the challenge brought forth by the various charities,” said Flirt4Free President Gregory Clayman Clayman.

Vanguard Now, the Center’s blog, shares stories related to the work of the Center, which offers dozens of programs and services in four main categories: Health, Social Services and Housing, Culture and Education, and Leadership and Advocacy.

“We’re incredibly grateful to VSMedia for turning control of Gay.com to the Center,” said Jim Key, the Center’s chief marketing officer.

“There are so many great, important and untold stories related to the Center’s local and global work, which is why we recently launched our blog. At the very least, the traffic from Gay.com will help even more people learn how we’re building a  world where LGBT people thrive as healthy, equal and complete members of society.

“But we’ve only begun to think about the possibilities for the domain.”

gay.com, la lgbt center

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