Today witnesses the launch of TheFix.com, a new “sober lifestyles” site offering “addiction and recovery, straight up” (their words, not mine). The site is the brainchild of former magazine publisher and recovering alcohol abuser Maer Roshan, who discovered recently while getting sober that in recovery you find “people who are united by their values, united by their mission; there’s a common lingo, common literature [and] an actual community here.” Surprise!– he also notes in an interview in today’s NY Times that “it is a community that advertisers will discover is large and eager to spend: ‘The demographics are really good.'”
A quick read of The Fix’s front page suggests how Roshan and his backers plan to appeal to that demographic. The site has distinct tabloid appeal: it’s busy, gaudy, and interactive (users can rate rehabs, Zagat-style), with stories on “World’s Most Wanted Drug Lords” and “Messiest Celebrity Breakdowns.” Charlie Sheen figures pretty prominently. The Times piece touts the presence of Susan Cheever as a sign of the site’s seriousness (still more reminiscences of her father’s alcoholism and sobriety), but the bulk of the features appear to be written by “edgy” lad-mag journalists.
I wouldn’t say that these writers are breaking entirely new ground, but despite its somewhat breathless tone, I liked Mark Ebner’s long piece on Scientology’s rehab industry. It gave me information about something I had been curious about but too lazy to research on my own. The article on A&E as “The Affliction Channel,” by Joe Lynch, was a vernacular version of some of the issues surrounding what Points’s own Brian Herrera has called “Rehab TV.” And hipster author Tony O’Neill’s essay on using pot and ecstasy to get off of heroin complicated 12-Step abstinence culture without bashing it, which was nice to see.
I’m not prepared to say that The Fix is a unique take on recovery, but both the look of the site and its content position it distinctively in a market that is generally characterized by positivity rhetoric and an “earth and sky” palette. It may find a market niche because of this. Surely its founder and backers are aware, however, of similar recovery lifestyle marketing gambits of the 1980s? National magazines like Sober Times and Recovering made the same amazing discoveries about the recovery community (read: “market”) that Roshan and co. seem to have made. Both disappeared so completely and utterly by the early ’90s that I can’t even find anything to link to them in this post. Will the “urban” vibe of TheFix.com, and/or its flashy new media platform give it greater staying power?