When Mike Guy first heard about The Fix, an online magazine that chronicles addiction and recovery, “I thought it was the worst idea I’d ever heard,” says the former articles editor at Details.
Then he started looking around. “It occurred to me that this is really a general interest magazine,” he says. “Addiction is everywhere.”
No doubt, even if you’ve never struggled with substance abuse, chances are you can appreciate the depth and breadth of the stories, which range from profiles of the U.S. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske and former Jets quarterback Ray Lucasto to feature stories on the “druggiest” Olympic sports. While alcohol and drug abuse are certainly core topics, The Fix deals with addictions of all kinds, from gambling to junk food.
“One of our goals is to remove the stigma around addiction,” says Allison Floam, who cofounded the site in 2011 with Maer Roshan, who is best known for founding Radar Magazine, and Joe Schrank, a social worker who’s also behind Loft 107, an upscale sober living center in Brooklyn.
Backed with $3 million in funding from two private investors, the startup now has 10 people on staff, dozens of contributors and a few hundred thousand unique visitors each month.
Both Roshan and Schrank have firsthand experience with addiction and recovery. Floam does not, but the 29-year-old Harvard Business School grad and startup veteran had no trouble seeing that there was an information void for the 23 million Americans who have drug and alcohol problems, not to mention the millions of others who suffer from other types of addictions. “The topic spans all income and education levels,” she says, adding that readers include the children and parents of addicts, as well as the professionals who treat them.
While much of the site’s content chronicles the culture of addition, The Fix is also working on creating a library of independent reviews of rehabilitation centers. “You can read hundreds of independent reviews on pizza places or hotels, but until recently there was nothing out there for treatment centers,” says Floam, noting that the price tag for residential facilities can range from $5,000 to $100,000 a month.
The site now has some 50 reviews about rehab centers and plans to double that by the end of the year. The reviews are based on detailed surveys and interviews of facility alumni, and cover everything from the food and atmosphere to the overall approach.
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The Fix’s take on the Betty Ford Center? The “fabled California desert rehab facility is still considered by many to be the grand dame of rehabs — although it’s a bit old-school in its approach.” Another center, Casa Palmera, “offers sun-drenched luxury a stone’s throw from the sea (and a few stars). But the one-size-fits-all AA approach doesn’t always go down as well as the homemade peanut butter.”
Even with these comprehensive reviews at their fingertips, folks looking for help for themselves or their family members often need extra guidance. The Fix came to this conclusion after fielding daily calls from people wanting some additional handholding.
In January, the site created a helpline – and a business model – aimed at placing people in appropriate facilities. When people call its helpline, The Fix staff gathers information about their needs and makes a few recommendations. The first priority is making a good match, says Floam, but the company does receive a flat fee for referring people to facilities within its network. In many cases, she adds, The Fix can negotiate lower rates for patients because of these agreements.
True, the arrangement has the potential to be “a little cozy,” says Guy, “but we maintain a pretty strict divide between church and state.” Meanwhile, Floam says the company does a great deal of due diligence on rehab centers before it invites them into its network, and even then the decision of which treatment centers get recommended is independent of any business relationship; the site doesn’t accept advertising from treatment centers.
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For now, the company’s ad revenue comes primarily from networks, such as Google ads. The Fix does not run ads from treatment facilities because they would potentially conflict with reviews. Instead it’s banking that mainstream advertisers will eventually get over the stigma of addiction and see the wealth of opportunity in marketing to this group. “The brands that do step up have an incredible opportunity to connect with people who are changing their lives and their habits,” says Floam, adding that because they’re no longer feeding their fixes, they have more discretionary money to spend on travel, healthy food and exercise. “The gym becomes the new, healthier addiction.”