Last week, the media newsletter The Fine Print reported on a surprising new direction for The Believer, the prestigious literary magazine run out of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’s Black Mountain Institute until last fall, when the institute announced that the magazine would be discontinued. Its site remains online, and continued publishing into early this spring. But a former Believer staffer noted that new material had popped up: an SEO-bait article titled “25 Best Hookup Sites for Flings, New Trysts, and Casual Dating.”
The post is backdated March 22, 2021 — well before the magazine was discontinued — but it has only been archived by the Wayback Machine since April of 2022. Even still, it led former editors to speculate that the magazine had been sold to “a content farm.” When the Fine Print contacted BMI, several representatives dodged the question: “I don’t…I don’t have any information about that,” executive director John Tuman told them; UNLV liberal arts college spokesperson Karyn Hollingsworth added, vaguely: “We stated earlier that we would evaluate the best path forward for The Believer and Black Mountain Institute.”
Now, a group called the Sex Toy Collective has claimed on Twitter to have purchased the site.
The collective did not immediately return Gawker’s request for comment, but they explained online the post was only an SEO test, backdated for a year earlier to avoid disrupting the homepage. The Minnesota-based group runs a website for “sex toy reviews, tools, and guides,” according to their Twitter bio, where they promote only “body-safe non-toxic sex toys!” Per their website, sextoycollective.com, the collective employs four staffers (at least one of whom uses a pseudonym) and the founder — a man identified only as “Ian.” In earlier versions of the webpage, Ian went by “Ian Munro.” It’s unclear why he deleted the last name.
Elsewhere, STC lay out their mission statement:
Our mission is to give people the information they need to improve their sex life, try new things, and stay safe in the bedroom. We exclusively review non-toxic sex toys and work toward a sex-positive future, no matter your sexuality, background, or gender identity.
This includes projects like “Dildo University,” an online course on making your own dildos; “The Dildo Sculptor Tool,” a digital tool to design a dildo mold; “World Sexploration,” a map of body positive sex shops; and “The Sex Toy Discovery Tool,” an archive of the “most interesting and innovative” sex toys on the market. The site does not include any information on their financing, though they do disclose affiliate partnerships with companies like “SheVibe, Good Vibrations, Amazon Associates, and several other merchants.”
Following the Sex Toy Collective’s tweet about buying The Believer, former editor Kristen Radtke wrote a thread about the sale. Radtke told Gawker that when BMI first announced internally that they planned to cut the outlet’s funding, staff hoped their former publisher, McSweeney’s, would buy the magazine back. She claimed that McSweeney’s placed a bid to relocate the magazine in San Francisco, but that UNLV shopped it around, before rejecting the bid. “This was an ideal scenario ensuring its survival,” Radtke wrote on Twitter. “Current and former staff threw their support behind it; UNLV ignored them.”
Another source familiar with the matter suggested that the University may have been motivated by retaliation, over the scandal last year that led to the resignation of former editor-in-chief Joshua Wolf-Shank, who was caught taking a bath during a Zoom meeting. The scandal led to extensive coverage in the local press, that the source said embarrassed the Institute and its major funder, Beverly Rogers.
Instead, former editors said, BMI sold the magazine to the Sex Toy Collective and “Paradise Media.” There are several companies with that name. Among them: “Paradise Media,” a digital marketing company that does a lot of SEO, and “Paradise Media & Marketing,” a digital marketing company that does a lot of SEO.
Our money is that the buyer may be a digital marketing company that does a lot of SEO. Neither the Black Mountain Institute, McSweeney’s, or either of the Paradise Medias immediately returned our request for comment, but we will update if they do.
Update, 1PM: We can confirm that the other buyer is this Paradise Media, whose CEO is also the founder of Sex Toy Collective, Ian/Ian Munro, though here he uses a different name: “Ian Moe.” A LinkedIn profile for Moe seems to confirm as much, listing these current positions: CEO of Paradise and Publisher of the Believer.
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