THE MOST UNHAPPY FELLAS: David Zinczenko isn’t the only editor in chief of a Rodale men’s magazine writing a book about the inner lives of men. Stephen Perrine, editor of Men’s Health spin-off Best Life, is working on a volume of his own, to be called “Desperate Husbands: Secret Fears, Hidden Longing and the Quest for Meaning in the American Male,” which Rodale will publish sometime next year. Like Zinczenko’s book, “Men, Love & Sex: The Complete User’s Guide for Women,” “Desperate Husbands” begins with the idea that guys are chronically misunderstood. But the similarities stop there, said Perrine. “Dave’s book is kind of a fun, cool dating guide for women,” he said. “Mine’s more of a sociological piece. What I’m trying to do is to get an idea of the state of American manhood today, and what guys are thinking and feeling, and how they’re responding to all these societal changes and pressures.”
So how are they responding? Not so well, said Perrine. “A lot of guys are feeling a bit lost and kind of devalued. Men just don’t know what their role in the world is and that’s leading to all sorts of confusion.”
Who’s to blame? If you guessed “society,” you’re not wrong. “We’ve seen a little, I don’t know if it’s fair to call them ‘inequities,’ but ways in which men’s emotional and financial and spiritual health are being neglected by society today,” said Perrine. As examples, he cited child-custody laws that favor mothers over fathers (about which Perrine, a divorced dad, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times last weekend) and erectile-dysfunction drugs whose ad campaigns make men feel inadequate.
It may sound like Perrine is trying to elicit sympathy for the poor, downtrodden American man, but he insists that’s not his view. “I don’t think men are victims,” he said. “I don’t think women are victims, either, as much as we say they are. What I’m saying is women have done a really good job of redefining their roles, and men have done a very poor job of redefining theirs in response.”
No wonder a lot of men feel, in the words of a certain ab-savvy prose stylist, “about as secure as a carton of Twinkies in the middle of a Curves studio.”
— Jeff Bercovici
MEASURING UP: Existing methods of measuring magazine readership are widely lamented as slow, inefficient and of dubious accuracy. Fortunately, they may soon be a thing of the past.
A new audience-measurement system called Readership.com released the results of its first beta test this week. Sponsored by a slew of publishing companies including Time Inc., Condé Nast and Hearst, the test’s main purpose was to validate Readership.com’s methodology, comprising Web-based surveys administered on a weekly basis. But it also generated some interesting findings, said Rebecca McPheters, whose consultancy, McPheters & Co., created the service. Compared with measurements by MRI, the current industry standard, the Readership.com test found larger audiences for magazines whose readerships are heavily male and professional. McPheters attributed the difference to MRI’s methodology, which requires subjects to be at home and submit to lengthy questionnaires. “Our methodology is significantly less burdensome,” she said. The test also measured larger-than-expected audiences for lad magazines and tabloids — possibly, speculated McPheters, because people are reluctant to admit to interviewers that they read such titles. Of course, the main virtue of Readership.com is its timeliness, which will allow publishers and advertising agencies to know how much exposure a given issue receives within a week of its publication. McPheters compares the system, which will begin continuous measurement of the top 200 titles this fall, with “Nielsen overnights, but for magazines.” She added, “We think we’ve built a better mousetrap.”