Grindr is signalling that it wants to get into the hard news business with an announcement this week that it hired an editor-in-chief for its online magazine, Into, which launched as a vertical on its site in March.
Zach Stafford will join the gay hookup app from Guardian U.S. and Out Magazine to lead a growing newsroom. And he’s interested in more than fluff pieces on workout routines or Instagram “lewk” queens.
While lighter fare is certainly part of the plan, Stafford said he wants to focus on harder-hitting stories like articles about anti-gay laws in Rio De Janeiro, Stafford said.
“We’ll work very closely with Grindr as an app to source stories and meet people around the world,” Stafford said in a phone interview this week ahead of moving from Chicago to Los Angeles, where he will join Grindr’s main offices.
Grindr is currently posting to an Into section on its website, but intends a standalone digital publication, Stafford said. The app has 3 million daily users, and of course is mostly known for gay dating, but Into will be the media side, reporting on LGBTQ issues.
Grindr is not the first startup to create a publication that focuses on the community it brought together. Tinder launched a podcast, Airbnb prints a magazine. Uber even published a magazine called Momentum, which was geared toward its drivers.
“This outlet is exciting for a lot of guys like me,” Stafford said. “People who are gay, queer, they use the app more than anything else. They spend more time on Grindr than they do on Facebook.”
People aren’t just there for hookups, they’re meeting people and talking about their lives, Stafford said.
Into will be able to reach out to the community for stories. Already Grindr takes survey of readers in different locations, and runs polls on gay opinions of, say, the French election, and other weighty subjects.
Into will offer traditional advertising opportunities and Grindr will work with brands on deeper content sponsorships. As its new editor-in-chief, Stafford said he will hire at least four reporters and content producers who can help get the site off the ground.
Stafford has a background in news and a degree in gender studies and cultural geography. At Guardian US, he contributed reporting to stories about Chicago Police Department civil rights abuses. At Out Magazine he wrote on subjects like the Pulse Nightclub shooting.
Stafford said he thinks it’s important for the community to have its own media outlets, to tell stories in ways that are sensitive to the people involved. In the Orlando nightclub attack, there were dynamics at play, such as victims being outed after their deaths, that traditional publications might not even consider.
On the other hand, it would also be hard to imagine Grindr outing Olympians in a misguided article, like The Daily Beast once did, when it sent a heterosexual reproter to pose as gay at the games.
There’s no shortage of weighty subjects for Grindr’s users either, Stafford said. Into reporters could have intimate access to persecuted gay communities in places like Chechnya, the type of access potential any reporter would envy.
“LGBT people don’t always feel safe in public,” Stafford said. “Places like Grindr are a refuge.”