The History of GSN and the Renewed Vision

GSN has changed the face of LGBT+ media since 2011 and is used and loved by millions of people around the world. Now, as part of Iconic Labs, the new GSN is on its way to being the world’s biggest LGBT+ digital media brand. From gaining the support of celebrities such as Stephen Fry, Sandi Toksvig and Ian McKellen to attracting clients as diverse as Skittles, Manchester United and Heathrow Airport, GSN has already had an exciting history. But our biggest asset is our loyal, enthusiastic audience of fans and followers who will propel us into the future. While GSN is now part of the Iconic Labs PLC family of brands, the mission to serve the LGBT+ community remains the same. And it is that commitment that will ensure GSN thrives in the future.

24-7 vision

My partner Scott Nunn and I already had over a decade of experience each at the top of LGBT+ media when we co-founded GSN in 2011. Back then, LGBT+ publishers were focused on print magazines where circulations were generally below 20,000 and in terminal decline. The digital news sites that did exist around the world were infrequently updated and tended to take evenings and weekends off. Nobody had committed to covering international LGBT+ news. So GSN became the world’s first 24 hours a day, 365 days a year LGBT+ news site. We broke the mould in two other ways too. We committed to being a global brand, rather than a US or UK one, as we believed our community wanted to unite. And we knew LGBT+ people wanted quality journalism and to hear stories that were currently overlooked. As a result, GSN flourished from the outset. Our exponential growth was almost entirely based on organic re-sharing and engagement with our content, rather than paid-for promotion.

World-class brands

GSN also changed the way LGBT+ media worked with brands. At that time, most publishers focused on simply selling display advertising. By contrast, we committed to helping our clients understand and engage the LGBT+ community in productive and authentic ways. This approach attracted Lufthansa as our launch partner. And many in the travel industry followed. GSN has worked with Disneyland Paris, Celebrity Cruises, Hoseasons, Marriott, Radisson and many airlines and tourist boards around the world. Heathrow Airport has sponsored our travel section for three years. GSN is trusted by household names to promote their brand to the LGBT+ community. Skittles, Snickers, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Manchester United, Wickes, Bearfoot Wine and Pink Lady Apples have all worked with us. We have also attracted many of the UK’s biggest banking brands, including Barclays, Lloyds Bank, RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest), Moneycorp, Travelex and Barclaycard. But whether it’s with Fujitsu, CoOp or nPower, GSN encourages clients to work year-round to support the LGBT+ community. That approach has frequently proved to be award-winning and built long-term relationships.

Star quality

GSN’s mixture of fun and serious content and its commitment to serving the LGBT+ community has also attracted other household names. Stephen Fry helped launch Gay Star News by tweeting about us on our official go-live date. Over the years, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Sir Ian McKellen and Sharon Osbourne all helped us with exclusive designs for our Pride Bags, given to tens of thousands of Pride-goers around the UK. GSN has gone from the final frontier as George Takei supported Digital Pride to the world of homebaking when Sandi Toksvig gave the keynote speech at our first LGBT Founders event, celebrating older members of our community. But, while it’s a cliché, the real stars have been GSN’s audience, who have always championed our brand and content. Thanks to them, we’ve attracted celebrity readers and supporters from the world of K-pop to Hollywood and from music royalty to actual royalty.

Renewed vision

Iconic Labs PLC purchased GSN’s brand and IP in the summer of 2019 and set about planning a relaunch. This is GSN’s biggest opportunity to date. The founders of Iconic Labs bring unparalleled experience of social and digital media and monetising modern publishing. Meanwhile GSN’s connections and knowledge of the LGBT+ community will empower the community, the brand and our clients. Together we share the vision of establishing GSN as the world’s biggest and best LGBT+ digital media brand. The new GSN will have a smart new look, inspired by our commitment to diversity and quality information. And, most importantly, our mission will remain the same. We will unite and engage our global LGBT+ community and allies so they have the tools, the facts and the inspiration they need to build a brighter future.

Words by
David Stybr