All-Inclusive

Greetings from my mother’s house, where there is plenty of food, coffee, wine, heat, and relaxation. Except there is no internet.

Because of an eccentricity of where they live, my parents are in a pocket where there’s no easily-accessible internet. There are no cable services here, so nothing to bundle. The phone service does not offer traditional internet but does offer an Air Card, however said Air Card doesn’t like to work with my two laptops and so when I am here I can either tether to my iPhone or elect to go without. Therefore this Sunday morning finds me internetless, with coffee, and a large selection of magazines. I tethered to bring you this rant. You are so very, very happy about this, I can tell.

By virtue of some excess mileage points my parents have subscribed to a variety of magazines, some of which I have historically subscribed to and some that never held much fascination for me (Redbook, anyone?). Buried in the four-inch deep stack I found an old friend, a copy of the latest edition of Money Magazine. Back in my formative twenties (oh, so very long ago) I subscribed, gave up, and re-subscribed in my early thirties. (I followed this pattern with Martha Stewart Magazine, too). The reason for the spotty subscription is simple: after about two years, the content is not new. The same old concepts get recycled and rehashed (here’s how you figure the trade-off in percentages when evaluating interest on debt borrowed vs. money saved!); after a couple of years it’s like watching a predictable movie.

As it has been about six years since my last venture through Money Magazine I opened it with honest curiosity. I can tell you right now, just to ruin this particular feature, that yes, there was very little new content. OK, fine. But here’s what struck me: I am not this magazine’s audience. Not at all. This was driven home in the first five minutes of perusal, and it’s something that either was not made clear in my previous reviews of it, or has changed recently in the editing.

Like this:

The cover is telling me how to reach $1M, 5 best moves to climb to real wealth, etc., all standard personal-finance magazine stuff. So far, so good. The first ad on the inside is for a Mazda, all edgy and black. That’s fairly neutral. The next one is for Capital One, ok, appropriate for a finance mag. Then we have the table of contents, another bank ad, and then the first non-bank, non-car ad? For Axiron, a low-testosterone treatment. A really hot older guy is showing staring off into middle distance as he applies it (it goes on your underarm area, like a roll-on deodorant) and the fact that his arm posture during this is like a man flexing his bicep is not lost on me. The only other picture of him is playing baseball (very, very manfully).  Everything else is tiny letters telling you how to get this to boost your testosterone.

Aside from the dubious joy of seeing a hot guy battling the failings of time this tells me that I am, if I am reading this magazine, somehow interested in this.  Ergo, if I’m male, I may have a testosterone deficiency. If I’m female, my husband obviously may have one: look at how manfully the hot guy is flexing.  In truth I am neither of these things, and this ad alienates me.

But hey, it’s just one ad, so let’s keep reading.

Letter from the Managing Editor (Craig!) telling us to not worry much and be a little happy.  Standard stuff.  Then the write-ins from readers. Nathan, Anu, Jared, Christopher, Jared. All dudes. The Facebook quotes are even more interesting: these are online responses to “Best Money Advice Now”. Cavonta (assuming female here) tells you to fold it up and put it in your pocket (saving). David talks about equity in your company to make real money (strategy). Rachel tells you to learn to cook (spend your money on experiences). Michael tells you to leave emotions out of investment decisions (strategy).  Marina tells you (I kid you not) how to shop (spending again). The message? Strategy is for men, and then how to employ that strategy is for women.

Next ad, T. Rowe Price. Very tastefully done, nice coloring, no humans. As a bank should be.

Next, the advice column: what to do when your boss takes the credit you deserve. Margot, Tom, Randy, Craig, Paul, and Ron all responded (although Margot got to advise first). Margot’s advice was about placating (work it out with your boss and ask them to share a little of the love), and the remainder included strategy on how to get the credit.

Next ad: Angie’s List. Something everyone can use (I don’t use it but they have a nice black and white pic of Angie, talking about authentic reviews and uses).

Then we have an Ad for Mutual of America, about retirement. Who’s in it? Grandpa and grandson at baseball. No one else (aside from some other little male children, in soft-focus in the background) is visible. An article about car insurance, some Q&A, an ad for CFP’s, and now we come to:

CIALIS! Free trial for 30 days. There must be a modeling agency for seriously hot older guys because here’s a different one, arm around his female person (wife? Girlfriend? Friend’s wife? We don’t know, no rings are visible and he is not looking her in the eye, incidentally). And then many little words about how you too can have sex-on-demand again. If you’re a guy. Or a wife with a guy who needs it.

(There’s three pages of small print about the boner medication, flanked by a small ad on Weber Grill’s new REAL GRILLING cookbook.)

A couple more small articles, and then an ad for the Alzheimer’s Association.  Now we have hot older guy number 3, looking at himself in the mirror, wondering about if he has Alzheimer’s or not.

A fluff piece on underwater/waterproof cameras, an ad for GoToMeeting (which I have used) AND HAS WOMEN IN IT, OMG! WOMEN! All with long, straight hair, and an equivalent number of bearded, hipster-looking guys. In the meeting, on the screen, someone named Ted is offering Community Management Certification to lady with straight hair number one. Oh, okay. So it’s okay that she’s in some form of technology; she’s doing something “nice” like Community Management. It’s not like she’s a DEVELOPER, or anything. That said, there’s a nice quote from a CEO named “Wendy” about how useful it is.

I am looking at hot older guy number 4, the first non-white hot older guy, in an ad for a shingles vaccine.  Some small articles on the cost of medicine, an ad for CDW done in all red and white, and then an article on how to split the check.

With your “buddies”.

An ad for the magazine itself, and then “How to tell your kid you’re cutting him off”. Presumably female kids don’t need to be cut off.

Then an ad for Edward Jones, with hot older guy number 5 (we’re back to white), who actually believes the retirement goals his financial advisor is helping him with.

At that point, we were at page 35, about 1/3 of the way through the magazine. There were more hot older guys, there were more ways to feel comfortable about your manhood, how you were going to look after your wife and the grandkids, how to marshal financial decisions while grilling meat and talking sports.

I am not a raving feminist (yet), but it bothers me that a genre I’d consider to be (or need to be) gender-neutral (finance) is in fact, male-oriented, still. This is not expecting to pick up an issue of Deer Hunter magazine or what have you and see equal representation of girls and guys, (or Martha Stewart Mag, for that matter). Fiscal responsibility and interest is not something that should (or does) fall along gender line patterns; the knowledge that one of those Jamie Lee Curtis yogurt ads that help your “digestive tract” would kill off subscriptions of the magazine saddens me.

I do not want a magazine that is female-financially-geared in response. It would be needlessly redundant: a LOT of the articles and content in the magazine, particularly if you haven’t read it before, are useful regardless of your gender (and sometimes, your age). But the ad choices in this latest edition are so ruthlessly targeted it’s something I noticed before my first cup of coffee was through, and overshadowed my interest in what the thing actually had to say.  I didn’t expect a nail-polish ad, or an ad by Revlon or for tampons; but having Grandma at the baseball game would’ve been nice. Maybe having a female in the shingles or Alzheimer’s ad? (Not that I’m wishing shingles or Alzheimer’s on anyone, it’s just one of the few ads that targeted an ailment that isn’t gender-specific).

A lot of magazines, particularly in-print magazines, are worried about subscribers and leverage ad sales in order to keep their magazine afloat. I get that, it’s part of the mixed-revenue model a magazine uses. I’m just wondering at what cost are they placing these ads, for their “desired” audience, and missing a wider audience (that is growing).

Or maybe that’s why all the older guys in the ads are hot.

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