Throughout human history, it has not been a secret that men sometimes prefer to bask in ignorance rather than to appear less-than-macho and request help. Like when we get lost driving and refuse to pull over and ask for directions. Or when we wait until death is knocking at our door before we will see a doctor. Now, however, thanks to Ricardo Poupada, Chris Rovny, and Louis Rodrigues, co-founders of AskMen.com, help is just a click away. The trio launched AskMen.com in 1999 to provide answers to the questions all men – and some women – want to know, but are too afraid to ask.
The site was an instant hit. By 2001 Askmen.com had 72 million readers; it had outpaced its competition – sites such as Maxim Online, FHM, and Men’s Health – and landed in Nielsen/NetRatings’ Top 300 Largest Web Sites. Today, Askmen.com has over 5 million monthly readers and according to a competitive analysis conducted by HitWise, controls a 35% market share of all surfers interested in men’s lifestyle content. I chatted recently with AskMen.com CEO Ricardo Poupada about the company’s popularity, metrosexuals, and the faith of traditional magazines.
Harbus: How did AskMen.com come about?
Ricardo Poupada: Nearing graduation during business school, I was having lunch with a couple of classmates discussing ideas for starting a business. We were brainstorming when in walked a particularly well dressed man. This guy had on a two-thousand dollar Armani Suit and equally as expensive shoes. He sat down and crossed his legs, revealing a pair of white athletic socks. When we saw his socks we just had an epiphany. We realized that there are men out there who know so much about so many things, but do not know the small things that separate the men that have it from the men that don’t. We decided to come up with a website that would go over the little things that every guy might already know, but needs to have written down somewhere and be reminded of sometimes.
Harbus: Why is AskMen.com so popular?
RP: I honestly think that there was just a void in the marketplace. When a man has a health problem, a sex problem, or a confidence problem he is not going to talk about it with his friends. If a guy has a crappy interview he is more likely to say to his friends ‘I did ok but just didn’t get it’ than he is to admit he messed up and could use some interviewing tips. It’s a very macho thing. However, when a guy comes to our website it’s anonymous. You get the information that you need without having to uncomfortably ask someone. That privacy has propelled readers to our site. After visiting our site, men then tell other men about the site. Guys do not admit that they go to AskMen.com for dating advice. Instead they tell their friends to go to AskMen.com because it has great travel articles or something like that. Guys know, however, that their friends are going to go to our site and see all the other information and start surfing around.
Harbus: What are guys really interested in?
RP: Obviously, guys are interested in the opposite sex, so our dating content is very popular. The interesting thing however, is that our fashion content has increased in popularity over the last year or so. There is a whole new market of men out there who are interested in looking better in the work place and around women. Men are also interested in sports, their careers, money, and to a much lesser extent, entertainment.
Harbus: Is all the interest in “Men’s Lifestyle” just a fad?
RP: More and more men are being made aware of their surroundings, similar to how women have been aware of their surroundings through magazines for the past twenty or thirty years. Guys know that being a complete man requires a lot more than working nine-to-five, coming home, kicking off your shoes, and watching television. For example, men are working out and grooming themselves more than ever before. Men are moving in this complete lifestyle direction and I don’t believe they will turn back.
Harbus: Who is a meterosexual?
RP: It’s a marketing term that defines what has been happening with the way some men are dressing, grooming, and living their lives. We are based in Montreal, which is a very European city, and you will see it in how a lot of the men are dressed. Their style is very similar to how men dress in Milan. Seeing more stylish and fashionable dress here, we get a sense that this trend is spreading to different places. When I travel to the U.S., I see more and more men focused on themselves. Also, I’ve noticed that gym memberships have skyrocketed and companies are heavily promoting weight loss pills and quick abs programs. A few years ago, a beer belly was a cool thing to have. Now, men in general are more focused on presenting themselves in the best light possible.
Harbus: Are traditional men’s magazines afraid of AskMen.com?
RP: I know for a fact that magazine publishers are scared. People I know in the publishing industry have told me they are dinosaurs because they don’t have a web strategy. To use the adult world as an extreme example, when people wanted access to adult materials, several years ago, they bought a Playboy at the newsstand. Nowadays, a lot of people are getting their adult content online. The migration of readers to online content is even more pronounced when you look at really young adults. Eighteen year olds have grown up getting their adult content online and will continue to get it online. The same thing is happing in the men’s lifestyle segment. As more and more men get their content online they are going to buy fewer magazines like GQ and Esquire. When twenty-five year olds were fifteen, Internet content was not widely available, so they are still buying magazines. However, the new generation of fifteen year old guys who are getting their lifestyle information from AskMen.com will not be buying magazines ten years from now. The new generation is who the publishing world is really afraid of losing.
Harbus: What does the future hold for AskMen.com?
RP: What we would like to do is expand our lifestyle information niche and become the ultimate men’s portal. Our hope is that whether you have a question on how to be a better father, or how to take care of your health, or even what to buy for your first anniversary, you will think to come to AskMen.com first. The plan is to make our website so comprehensive that you will not need to go to Yahoo or any other site. We want to get away from the magazine model and look more like a portal. We recognize that we will never have the reach or be as broad as Yahoo, but we can certainly be the number one source for men’s information.