Kai Ryssdal: Addiction is big business in the United States. The government says more than 24 million adults were classified as substance-dependent last year; $20 billion was spent at rehab facilities.
But addiction’s also an opportunity, depending on how you look at it. Maer Roshan has worked mostly at magazines — New York, Talk, Radar, which he founded. Today he launched a new website devoted to addiction and recovery. It’s called TheFix.com. When we spoke earlier today, I asked him why.
Maer Roshan: It actually came, partly, from personal experience. After a career of 15 to 20 years, I sold my company and moved to Los Angeles and was probably drinking more than I — Probably? Definitely drinking more than I should have.
Ryssdal: Yeah, you went into rehab, right?
Ryssdal: And you figured that they needed something like TheFix.com. They needed to read about their lives online, I guess?
Roshan: There are 40 million people in this country who are either identified as substance abusers, 20 million who are people who publicly identify as recovering people. That’s a pretty big group and I was surprised as a journalist who’s done a lot of different magazines to discover that there’s this huge community that was not being served by anyone.
Ryssdal: If that community, though, is the first you need to start a media company or a property or something that people are going to need, then surely advertisers are a very close second. Are you having success finding people who want to advertise on this site?
Roshan: The demographics of this community, I think, speak for themselves. People have this kind of idea of recovering people or people with substance abuse problems as lying in boxes in New York street corners. And the fact is that in many ways people who are in recovery are healthier, have more disposal income because they’re not spending it on substances, they’re trying to recapture lost years of their lives. So there’s a whole group of advertisers that I think are perfect for this demographic.
Ryssdal: I have to tell you, though, so I’m looking at this site in the studio as we talk. It seems — and I’d be curious to get your reaction to this — a tad exploitative. I mean, you’ve got Charlie Sheen up there and Lindsay Lohan and celebrity meltdowns and alcoholic monkeys. I mean, what is this site?
Roshan: I wanted to create a site that was reflective of the way people live actually. And Charlie Sheen was a subject of debate and conversation for a long time. And our Charlie Sheen story was written by Susan Cheever. It was an examination of why are we as a society so fascinated by people who are having these public breakdowns and I think that’s a perfectly valid topic of discussion and not really in the National Enquirer mode.
Ryssdal: Maer Roshan and his new website, TheFix.com, went live today. Maer, thanks a lot.
Roshan: Thanks for having me.
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