Q & A with Guy Shepherd
From the horse's mouth: The Planned Man's backstory and the reason we are here. Tweet
Every man has a complicated, personal history.
And so do we. And so do you. And that's what unites us.
Editor’s Note: We have spent the summer trying to fill out the idea that is Planned Man. In a few days, we are going to go public. To this end, PM’s comms person, Leigh, asked Guy some clarifying questions. Here are are his answers:
Leigh: Why did you decide to launch this now?
Guy: I could not imagine a more opportune moment in time. There are shoots of a renaissance sprouting just now.
Playboy is dead. Porn Hub is free and fucking weird — literally. GQ and Esquire are aesthetically and culturally sclerotic. Maxim rode the lad wave to existence to the Promise land, but now is keeping its head down.
These companies are behaving just like ESPN—taking an editorial tack away from what their audience wanted. They define men in terms only comprehensible to a twentysomething woman. David Portnoy launched Bar Stool Sports — a site that is decidedly pro-sports, pro-men, and pro-American—and you can hear the sucking sound of ESPN’s audience moving away while Barstool Sports‘ readership and wallet are swelling.
A print magazine is a picture book of its soul.
These mainstream male brands are dying for the same reason. They don’t have a self-conscious understanding of what its is to be a man at core. They are letting themselves be blown around by toxic cultural and political winds. And these winds are in charge of advertising budgets, and those always come with strings attached to editorial.
A print magazine is a picture book of its soul. At least, that is how I approach it. I open up a magazine with the explicit intent to flip first. Primacy first goes to the visual over the verbal. A quick walk-by to see what’s on display. If something catches my eye, dog-ear that page. You will get the signal of what they are projecting, what they believe, and what they think you should believe, too.
What are you welcomed by? Never a table of contents. That is always hidden farther up front. No, you open a magazine to a spread — a two-page appeal to your imagination. This is the best and most expensive piece of real estate. It is anchor-tenant advertising gold. This is the real-life importance of location, location, location.
Leigh: Walk me through why you felt this was needed for men?
Guy: The idea and reality that men deserve better than what is being served up. The mainstream consensus out there on what men are is neither true, nor just helpful. As goes Bar Stool Sports, so goes America.
As goes ‘Bar Stool Sports’, so goes America.
Leigh: “You mentioned that you don’t think men can relate to magazines like GQ, etc…what specifically do you mean? “
Guy: An obvious example: Clothes most men would not wear. And a notion of the male self that is softly self-loathing.
Leigh: How do you determine the issues you address on the site?
Guy: Our culture is fixated on ripping things down. Borrowing from Derrida and other cultural nihilists, they call it deconstructionism—which is a rare example of truth in labeling. Our focus is on reconstruction. We say the only true way to overturn a bad idea is to put a better idea in its place.
Leigh: What is your end goal with this? What do you want to make men think and feel?
Guy: We want to contribute to better men and a better society. There is a lot of very good material to draw from in this reconstructing and filling out what a Planned Man is. There is also some toxic, angry shit that is not healthy. Our hope is to create a destination for good, healthy stuff that provides men and men-in-the-making a sheltering rabbit hole for their soul.
Leigh: Some of the topics you cover seem like they wouldn’t be particular to plannedman.com per se. They seem like topics that every men’s magazine would cover. For example, the best hangover cures, seven different types of beer, etc. Are you approaching these topics differently at plannedman.com than, say, GQ?
Guy: What separates PM from other sites is that we have an understanding of what its is to be a man in the 21st Century. It usually carries over to the way we cover men’s interests, and it shows itself up in the movies, the books, in what makes us laugh, cry, and are willing to stand up and defend.
Leigh: What is the feedback you’ve received from women about plannedman.com? What do you expect the feedback will be?
Guy: Women love the vasectomy idea immediately. Men are a little more hesitant about the procedure. Regarding the content, women recognize the common ground of equality, fairness, and openness to diversity.
Leigh: What is something totally unique to plannedman.com that no other male outlet has discussed or covered?
Guy: The “Second Sexual Revolution” is obvious.
I also think that we have a better understanding of the male as a consumer. We cover the waterfront of challenges that men face across their lifespans —from student-loan and credit debt, through 529’s, mortgages, insurance, and funerals—all the stuff that men think men should understand as the part of home economics that we think is men’s work. Because unless you are in the business of selling this shit, then you have no interest or inclination to figure any of it out.
We cover the waterfront of challenges that men face across their lifespans.
Last and most refreshing, we are consciously keeping politics out. We all have them. But they have infected aspects of life that inhibit conversation. We want to bring back a shared language that speaks about a subject on its own terms.
Leigh: What are the most important topics you plan to cover that you think other men-focused outlets don’t?
Guy: Human Equality properly understood. A lot of what is done in its name just is not true. For example, anti-racism is racist. The root of our conception of Planned Man is equality. A proper men’s magazine starts with idea of man in mind, on focusing on articulating an American middle ground, one based on common sense, a love of equality and liberty. A belief in good men and women who like men.
Leigh: Who are your competitors in this space?
Guy: I guess I want the unsatisfied GQ and Esquire reader. But we don’t see a direct competitor in the market. In a nation of 330 million souls—roughly half of them men—we found it promising there is not a company that unapologetically celebrates and serves the idea of man. There should be one, don’t you think?