O’Brien’s title will be editor-at-large, not editor-in-chief, which was apparently his call: “I can’t take that kind of pressure.”
O’Brien also called men’s magazines “more juvenile now,” though what “now” is being compared to is unclear. Perhaps he means when you look at the glory days of the ‘60s and ‘70s, when Playboy wasn’t struggling for readers and still had naked women in it. But if that’s his argument, it seems somewhat weak; Maxim’s competitors GQ and Esquire are publishing some of their best work in ages, and Lanphear’s hiring (from T magazine) was seen as a clear move to class up the magazine to compete with them.
What O’Brien’s likely less-than-subtly referring to is the news he recently made headlines for: in August, he dramatically parted ways with GQ when they replaced him as their “Style Guy” with Mark Anthony Green, after 15 years writing that column, which he also started.
“...I find the notion that this is a ‘rebranding’ of the Style Guy offensive,” he told Four Pins, later suggesting that the magazine cut him to save money. “I created the Style Guy, not GQ. It existed before I went to GQ. It had a long run in Details. I published a book under that title. It’s not something that existed before. It’s not like ‘managing editor’ or ‘film critic’ Their proprietary attitude toward what I’ve done is not only insulting, but really unoriginal. They could have at least called their replacement the “Style Intern.’” He went on:
To have had a brilliant success for fifteen years with something I created and then to try to make it appear like suddenly I wasn’t modern enough or they needed to go younger is completely dishonest. In fact it is entirely about going cheaper. Look at the top contributors over the last several years. Look at the editors they’ve lost. They’re all gone. Blame it on poor editorial judgment, or corporate mismanagement, or the failure to transition to digital, or the ridiculous moves of their television division, but don’t blame me. I would have been happy to just go quietly away from such a vulgar operation, but I am offended at being made a scapegoat for their spectacular incompetence. Gentlemen? I don’t think so.
Despite his concern about the sad state of affairs at GQ, O’Brien doesn’t appear to be particularly concerned about increasing readership for Maxim, even given Lanphear’s short tenure there. As WWD notes:
When asked about Lanphear’s quick exit and the pressure the editor had on her shoulders to remake the magazine, O’Brien offered: “I don’t think there’s a gun to my head in terms of getting results.”
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