A recent piece on America Public Media’s radio program Marketplace perked Upstream’s interest about a new website targeting a population of more than 40 million Americans – those battling an addiction.
TheFix.com (subtitle: “addiction and recovery, straight up”) is a web magazine covering a variety topics from sober sex to Hollywood’s best addict performances. Why start a website dedicated to a subject so often swept under the rug or associated only with misguided celebrities?
Founder Maer Roshan, a journalist, says the site developed out of personal experience after he realized he was drinking too much. In a time where many media outlets struggle to survive, TheFix.com has not had problems finding advertisers to support its content (which includes stories about how to find good AA meetings, how to tell if you’re addicted to the internet, and one about alcoholic monkeys to boot). As Roshan told Kai Ryssdal of Marketplace,
“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.”
Given the large number of people who deal with addictions and substance abuse today, the “Just Say No” campaigns of the past clearly were not effective. How will websites, such as the TheFix.com, help fill a void left by a lack of targeted and effective public health campaigns?
Work by Dr. Nori Comello shows that anti-drug messages directed at one’s “active self,” or the representation that is most salient to a person, is better able to persuade people to avoid drug use than other messages.
Given that the people who regularly visit TheFix.com very well may have an active self view of themselves as a current or former drug user, will this content, which has the added credibility of being founded by someone who has experienced substance abuse, be more effective in aiding recovery than traditional anti-drug messages?
What can health communicators learn from Roshan’s success targeting this population? How does this site frame the problems and the solutions to addiction and drug abuse, and does that framing help or hurt recovery? How can commercial ventures such as this impact and interact with the messages that professional health communicators try to send about substance abuse and addiction?