Media veteran Maer Roshan is overseeing the relaunch of FourTwoNine, a glossy lifestyle magazine that aims to bring a gay sensibility to a larger audience.
“While ‘the gay’ is very much in our DNA, we have stories that speak to a lot of other people,” Roshan explained. “When the magazine started out, it was aimed at the urban gay creative leaders or, as much as I hate this word, influencers. But views of sexuality are so much more fluid now, and there’s a big audience of straight guys.”
The magazine, which was launched in 2013 by Surface founder and former publisher Richard Klein, is positioning itself as a thinking man’s mag.
“The goal was to create a magazine that had substance and took the conversations well beyond the printed page. A unique property somewhere in between a Vanity Fair and a Vice,” Klein said, in a statement, “Maer is the perfect editor to guide our brand down this path.”
The spring issue, which comes out today, features four covers in order to highlight the range of men profiled in the issue: “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah, “Moonlight” star Ashton Sanders, legendarily quirky director John Waters, and skateboard star Brian Anderson, who came out as gay last fall. The content of the first issue includes photo spreads on baristas, pieces about issues like gay characters in pop culture and full frontals in movies, Q&As and celebrity profiles, and meaty features on topics like the future of Grindr and Michael Alig, the former club promoter who was recently released from prison. There’s also a spread on watches.
It is, in short, a well-conceived magazine. Which is not surprising given that Roshan has been in the magazine game for years. Formerly the deputy editor of New York magazine and the editorial director of Tina Brown’s buzzy early Aughts Talk, Roshan started Radar, which, in its original incarnation (and subsequent relaunches) was an irreverent culture publication with a fond following in New York media circles. Its web site, RadarOnline, folded in 2008, and became part of American Media Inc. Since then, Roshan launched and left addiction and recovery web site The Fix, and, more recently, started a consulting firm in Los Angeles.
“As much as I had vowed never to do magazines again and never to do start-ups again, it seemed too fun to pass up,” Roshan explained. “There’s nothing like really having a staff and assigning stuff.”
Roshan’s staff includes executive editor Owen Phillips, formerly the executive editor of The Hollywood Reporter, and Merle Ginsberg, who is taking over the role of fashion and entertainment director. Former Gawker editor (and a major character in last year’s legal showdown between Gawker and Hulk Hogan) AJ Daulerio has been working to re-conceive the magazine’s digital side and will be a regular contributor.
Just making a magazine in the current media environment, Roshan said, is something of a radical proposition. Or, at least, it takes a good deal of optimism.
“I love the web, and it’s where I turn to for breaking news and information about new trends. It’s immediate,” he explained. “But in this climate, the magazines that survive will have to have a real aesthetic presence and a sensory presence.
“I was thinking, down the line, even doing a scratch-and-sniff issue,” Roshan said. “That’s another thing you can’t do on the web.”