8 min read
Men’s Health is trash, let’s be real about the situation. The health-turned-lifestyle magazine by Hearst started in 1986 and like many things, it wasn’t always hot garbage; once upon a time, the magazine actually produced quality content.
Now, I don’t want to stand on a podium and vilify the magazine as I exclaim how horrible it is – there was a time I used to read the magazine regularly over the course of its history (having started when I was a teenager, probably like most), and I highlight this because I want people to understand that my criticism doesn’t come from a place of hate, woke-ism, or disdain, but more so from firsthand engagement, observation, and reflection. As with all things, time hasn’t been kind to the American publication as it has steadily turned into a periodical that appears to value profit and returns over quality content, and this needs to be highlighted.
To be fair, it’s not entirely the magazine’s fault as some changes bring about inevitable consequences that require a keen eye to spot and tackle before the problem is too large to combat. For example, as you grow, revenue becomes more important in your day-to-day operations so it’s only natural that profit grows in importance; over time, different people come in and out of a company and they bring with them different philosophies and leanings, some more harmful than others; and as the last example, there are only a finite amount of health-related topics before you’ve covered it all and there’s little to nothing left to explore – this is something all long-running health platforms eventually confront, regardless of medium, and a reality this site will have to face as well if it’s active for that long.
With all that said then, there are three primary ways one can engage with Men’s Health: the magazine, the website, and the YouTube channel. I want to review each one and highlight what exactly is wrong with it, that way, if you so choose to continue following Men’s Health, then at least you’re consuming the content with some knowledge over their shortcomings.
Spoiler alert: in my humble opinion, it’s between the magazine and the YouTube channel which are the worst offenders in terms of poor content offering. However, I suppose the YouTube channel wins by default as the worst platform because the magazine stopped printing last year.
This isn’t too surprising given that physical media is gradually losing ground to digital media, and we’ve heard for years that “print is dead”. Men’s Health was already a struggling publication (in the physical space) and when COVID came around, that was the final nail in the coffin. So, let’s get on to what things make the magazine so poor.
Sleazy Monthly Covers
Let’s begin by critiquing the first thing that catches all our eyes: the covers. Apart from the (usually) topless celebrity, athlete, or odd competition winner gracing the cover, the other constant with these are the short blurbs, pull quotes, and catchphrases surrounding the cover model. Without fail, each monthly cover will mention sex, abs/lose fat, and some kind of promise. The covers are repetitive and follow that familiar recipe (sex, abs, and promise) to the tee – regardless of the region of publication.
At the end of the day, the covers provide nothing of value and serve no further (nor greater) purpose than to grab your attention and beg you to open them. Now, none of this would necessarily be bad if the covers weren’t repetitive or downright unapologetically “baity”.
Ads, fashion/accessories, food, workouts, advice, travel, and a focus story. That’s the name of the game. Every time – regardless of publication region … again.
This layout, actually, I have absolutely nothing against, and this is also why the magazine turned from covering only health to including lifestyle; the two go hand-in-hand and you will never run out of a topic to talk about. However, the problem comes in with the manner in which the different topic areas are covered:
- Firstly, an ad is on display almost always on every second page, causing almost 50% of the entire magazine content to be dedicated solely to ads.
- Secondly, the articles are embarrassingly short, lack substance, and feel like filler content that merely exist to cover white space.
- Thirdly, there’s only so many workouts you can recommend to people when every single publication insists on offering selections of workouts to do.
- And fourthly, you know what you get before you’ve even read through the magazine – again this isn’t necessarily bad, because it suggests structure and familiarity but all that is pointless if I can purchase a magazine for February and I will have missed out on absolutely nothing if my next purchase is for December; the magazine offers a subscription service, but honestly, you’re wasting your money if you subscribe.
I can go on with the grievances but I’d like to think the points I’ve put across give an overview of the situation regarding the magazine’s content.
Lack of Content
You would think by covering travel, fashion, accessories, workouts, food, and general lifestyle, you wouldn’t run out of content to talk about, and this should be the situation but how the magazine goes about in covering the different topics actually limits them. It’s essentially self-wrought harm.
For example, when going over travel, the magazine opts to get exotic and expensive instead offering a variety of options from budget trips to lavish experiences. It’s the same with the accessories and fashion that they cover. Naturally, this is done because the magazine has an audience profile in mind and there’s nothing wrong with this – this is how you’re meant to cater to an audience, by identifying your target market – but the only problem with a target market is that there is a finite number of topics you can possibly cover for a single target audience and this reality is exacerbated when your publication is monthly: what are you going to tackle next after 10 years and over 100 publications? Mind you, Men’s Health has been around for over 30 years … it’s no surprise it’s been accused of repeating content (see here and here).
If you want to engage with Men’s Health, you’re better off ignoring everything else and sticking with the website. The way websites work suits the magazine best: there is an archive of old articles to access, images and videos are available for visitors, ads can be displayed, and depending on what is offered, subscription services make sense. Basically, a website makes a physical publication pointless because it can do the exact same things and more, and the best part about a website is that it does not have the same limitations as a print publication.
However, with that said, I can only think of one pitfall to a website as large as Men’s Health.
If all the writing was done by a small group of individuals, this would be easier to control, however, when you have a large team and also employ guest writers, it’s harder to have consistency in the messages being shared to visitors.
It should be noted that this problem isn’t unique to Men’s Health, another offender (and arguably the worst one) is Bodybuilding.com who will have everyone and anyone with the slightest bit of online rep write for them. They don’t bother to vet the information and see if it’s congruent with past articles they’ve written; the end goal is to generate views and engagement through them. It’s not odd to find one article exclaiming mornings are the best time to do a workout then on the exact same website, there’s another contradictory article touting evenings are the best time. This shit is annoying to see.
The YouTube Channel
Men’s Health’s YouTube channel’s content is quite different from the magazine and website. The reason why seems to be due to the target audience and how differently a video platform operates. I’ve already said that I think the channel is the biggest offender in terms of poor content offering among all the platforms Men’s Health utilizes.
The irony about the information the YouTube channel provides is that the main website claims to vet all their information through experts and ensure that the information is accurate and trustworthy, yet all of this is missing from YouTube.
The channel could’ve been an informational source that can be a helpful resource for people aspiring to be healthy, but instead, it opts to cover trash content like what’s in Kumail Nanjiani’s fridge or how Chef Rush only sleeps for two hours a day … like come on, man …
My best guess is that the YouTube channel exists simply to generate engagement – in any way possible. The clickbaity topics covered and the trashy content on offer are laughable: “Train Like” videos, “Gym & Fridge Tour” videos, “Eat Like A Celebrity” videos, and “Cheat Day” videos are just some examples. Where the magazine and website arguably strive to impart helpful, accurate information to readers and visitors, the YouTube channel does nothing of the sort.
Where the channel could genuinely engage in interesting topics by providing education, information, and guidance, it chooses instead to fall back on trash content like celebrities eating 8,000 calories a day. It’s laughable.