‘Out’ lays off its entire editorial staff, but editor Aaron Hicklin wants to hire ‘most’ back into his new startup

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The editorial staff of the influential gay lifestyle magazine Out is being laid off with one month's severance as of Friday, Capital has learned.

But according to Out editor-in-chief Aaron Hicklin, it's more complicated than that.

Hicklin said he will hire back an unspecified number of editors on a contract basis into a new company he is founding called Grand Editorial. It will operate the magazine as a contractor for Here Media, sister company of Regent Entertainment Inc., which acquired Out in 2008.

Hicklin told Capital there will be no reduction in the frequency of the magazine or other major changes to the content.

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"This was not a cost-cutting measure," he said.

He said he'd been hatching plans to launch Grand for awhile. Having spent six years running Out, he informed Here that he was forming a new venture, a custom-content shop that would work on projects like producing magazines for corporate clients, he said.

Out is Hicklin's first, and so far only, client. He said he plans to offer long-term contracts at Grand to "most" of his 12 editorial employees at Out. Should any of them take it, he said, the gig will come with flexible hours and the opportunity to work on other projects in the Grand stable, but not full-time salaries or benefits. (They will be contracted freelancers.)

Hicklin, who previously edited Blackbook, is negotiating office space in Carroll Gardens for the firm.

"I felt I was at a place where I had enough experience and relationships to parlay that into an agency that would provide a sort of editorial consultancy and content for other titles and corporate clients," he said.

Hicklin said he doesn't have any outside investors and that revenue at this point will be project-based, a prospect that has been met with gentle skepticism from some Out staffers: Here Media has had problems paying its freelancers and vendors over the past several years. There is an outstanding fraud lawsuit, meanwhile, against Regent.

Reached by phone, a company spokesman said the executive handling the Out arrangement was not immediately available for comment. We'll update when we hear back.

"With any startup, there are always risks," Hicklin said. "But for lots of publications, midsize publications especially, I think it makes sense to be a little more innovative in thinking about how they find ways to continue creating high quality content while being mindful of the huge transition the media is going through."

UPDATE: The Here Media spokesman, Mark Umbach, tells us in an email: "The company continues to make great strides in paying down its contributors and liabilities. As a common business practice we do not comment on any pending litigation."

He also sent along a statement from Joe Landry, senior vice president and group publisher of Here Media: "The media landscape is a rapidly evolving. I’m confident that the model we’re utilizing will offer us the best opportunities to remain competitive. We continue to have complete confidence in Mr. Hicklin and his team, most of which will continue to work with him on the OUT brand as he adds new staffers to continue to grow and evolve the brand.”

UPDATE 2: Here's the official press release about Hicklin's new company...

April 18, 2012 – After six years as Editor-in-Chief of Out magazine and Out.com – with a resume that includes Editor-in-Chief at fashion and arts magazine, BlackBook, and executive editor at men’s title Gear – Aaron Hicklin announced today that he is launching a full-service editorial agency. Grand Editorial is aimed at creating new efficiencies in the editorial process by providing customized content for a range of consumer titles and corporate clients. In addition to managing Grand Editorial, Hicklin will continue overseeing the editorial content and mission of Out magazine and its affiliated websites.

“I’m thrilled that Here Media, Out’s parent company, sees the value in this exciting new initiative,” says Hicklin, adding: “I’m profoundly committed to Out’s ongoing evolution, and beyond happy to be able to continue doing what I love best while also having the opportunity to explore new ways of thinking about the relationship between editorial and publishing.”

Brian Gorman, founder of Lords Hotel, is working with Hicklin as president of Grand Editorial and will spearhead business development and marketing efforts. He brings to the company years of experience in brand building from a variety of backgrounds including hotels and real estate development. Gorman, who will remain CEO of Lords Hotel, says “We feel there is a tremendous amount of opportunity in the editorial space to bring fresh ideas and content to companies looking to establish their own unique voice. I am excited to be a part of this venture and utilize my network of contacts to help Grand Editorial achieve its goals.”

Hicklin added, “Grand Editorial will include familiar faces and core talent from Out. It’s no secret that the media landscape is changing rapidly, and I think our talent will find this new approach both more flexible as well as empowering. I’m looking forward to producing some very special issues and digital initiatives for Out in the fall, while offering a unique blend of editorial consultancy and customized content to a wide range of new clients.”

Ed. Note: This item originally stated that Here Media is a subsidiary of Regent Entertainment Inc. They are separate companies with a business relationship.