Magazines aimed at twentysomething guys lean heavily toward boobs, beer, and boorishness — will young men pick up a title about "career advancement, finances and family life" instead?
According to Mike Shields of MediaWeek, that's what former Time Warner exec Michael Rideout is hoping with his July launch of MadePossible, a combination magazine/website/event planning company aimed at men 25-34. Rideout thinks these guys need a level of seriousness not present in Maxim, and a kind of career advice they can't get from GQ or Esquire. He says,
If you ask a young man who is alone in a room, he will say he wants the 2.5 kids, the white picket fence, the dream job. At around 25 these guys start making grown up choices for the first time that will largely shape their future.
Sounds nice, kinda. According to Rideout's thinking, young men have actual life goals beyond crushing beer cans with their heads. And while dudes are more than happy to buy the next magazine with Megan Fox on the cover, they might spring for something more substantive if it was actually on offer. Perhaps we're experiencing a larger cultural backlash against the young-man-as-knuckledragging-idiot stereotype as gleefully fed by lad mags and Axe body spray commercials. The recently launched Good Men Project website, for instance, includes an Ethics/Values section and a regular column seeking to answer the question, "What does it mean to be a good man, anyway?"
Rideout does give men credit for not being morons, but he's a businessman, and his rosy view of young masculinity is also tinted with green. MadePossible has deals with several fashion brands, and the CEO of one of these, Bonobos, says, "MadePossible provides a great way to connect with our core consumers through multiple layers of partnership." Further casting his project in capitalist language, Rideout says, "We actually believe that men brand themselves by the magazines they read." Even his vision of the white picket fence hearkens back to a very mainstream American vision of happiness-through-having: Rideout adds, "The idea is that it's now hip to be square." Rideout purports to offer a new option for young men, but he's also slotting them into an old archetype — the good man as good consumer. Of course, salvation through consumption is a vision women's magazines are constantly selling, and one magazines of all stripes indeed have to sell in order to maintain ad revenue. MadePossible seems more palatable — and useful — than the current crop of lad mags, but it's still promulgating the somewhat troubling idea that identity is a brand.