Quick & Simple

A year or so ago, I mysteriously began to receive the Quick & Simple weekly email newsletter. No matter what I did -- multiple unsubscribe requests, manually configured spam filters specifically targeting all things Q&S -- the damn thing kept arriving every week. It was the email-newsletter equivalent of herpes.

As a result, I've never been charitably disposed towards Quick & Simple. Besides, with its cornball, mom-baiting mix of health, style and nutrition tips, this is not a magazine for me. Come to think of it, it's not a magazine for any of the following groups: men, cynics, snobs, slobs, urbanites, exclamation-point haters (there are nine on the cover alone), and 30-and-unders. For the moms of the Midwest, however, it's hard to imagine a more useful publication.

As a city guy and a half-plugged-in media commentator, I'm supposed to look down my nose at titles like Quick & Simple, because they don't aspire to do all that much -- a money-saving hint here, a recipe there. But really, at some point shouldn't we relax our intellectual and aesthetic standards a bit? Shouldn't we start acknowledging that certain magazines, like Q&S, All You, Prevention and Good Housekeeping, work because they give woman readers precisely what they want, minus distracting graphic frippery and a bossy 'tude?

I'm not trying to get all hail-Middle-America! on you here, but most folks aren't too concerned about fall fashion and iPhone screen smudges about now. They're concerned about stretching their dollars, hosting summer BBQs and maybe shedding a few pounds. I don't know any of these people, mind you -- again, I'm a triple-ninja-sophisticated city dweller who owns precisely three items of clothing that aren't black or navy blue -- but I'm told that they're extremely pleasant and well-mannered.

Anyway, while the July 17 Quick & Simple is firmly grounded in day-to-day realities, it doesn't come across as overly preachy. The piece on "Beach Bummers," for example, addresses myths about shark attacks (for the uninformed: statistically, you have almost no chance of being mauled while swimming, even if you marinade yourself beforehand in a piquant tartar sauce). The issue offers a nice twist on the rote weight-loss story as well, visiting with a woman who lost 57 pounds playing Dance Dance Revolution, kind of a Guitar Hero for the "American Bandstand" set. What's important to note is that the mag doesn't create false expectations: it mentions, for example, that the weight loss took several months and was facilitated by a change in diet.

Appropriately, Quick & Simple doesn't bother with aspirational fare. Nearly every product the mag recommends costs less than $50, while it skips entirely the dream-vacation scenarios outlined by comparable pubs. In their place, Quick & Simple presents tips for green clean-ups and a sober guide to homeowner's insurance. The mag could use a few more straightforward financial-planning stories like the latter.

The July 17 issue does include a few of the usual dummy standbys, such as a two-page spread on walking ("be sure to alternate between your left foot and your right!!!"). The proposed remedies for kitchen screw-ups (flaccid mashed potatoes, accidental collisions between peanut butter and chocolate, etc.) merely regurgitate common sense. I also don't know what to make of the "Real Life" take on a mother who used a psychic to communicate with her dead son. I'm all for people finding solace wherever they can, but it seems a little irresponsible -- not to mention wildly at odds with the mag's grounded-in-reality approach -- to tout such a course of action.

It's challenging for me to evaluate a title like Quick & Simple, as pretty much everything in it -- the hammy text, the obvious ideas/strategies presented as gospel, the pictures of cats wearing miniature cowboy hats and bandanas -- makes me want to break stuff. So let's take a cue from former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart and his I-know-it-when-I-see-it dictum: You know just by paging through an issue of Quick & Simple that it's a perfectly crafted title for its target audience. There is no other conclusion to be reached. That's all.

Published by: Hearst Communications
Frequency: Weekly
Advertising information: 212-484-1400 (New York office)
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