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Regarding Media

New Magazine for Boomers Plays Down 'Maturity'

February 05, 2001|ROY RIVENBURG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Modern Maturity magazine is slowly being put out to pasture.

In an effort to woo aging baby boomers who seem unwilling to acknowledge the rapid approach of geezerdom, AARP has created a new publication--My Generation--for people ages 50 to 55. To sustain this illusion of eternal youth, the magazine's target age will expand as boomers get older, until it eventually replaces Modern Maturity.

There's even talk of producing a Generation X magazine, once that group approaches age 50, the traditional point at which AARP sends out membership invitations.

"We've been studying this for years," explains editorial director Hugh Delehanty, who was brought in to make Modern Maturity more boomer-oriented. "I quickly found out it's impossible to create a single magazine for people ages 50 to 100. Each generation sees the world very differently."

For one thing, baby boomers "define themselves in opposition to the older generation," he says. Although surveys showed both groups were interested in similar story topics--such as health, financial security and travel--boomers wanted "their own magazine."

Among the names floated for the new publication were American Pie, Baboom, Imagine, Blue Highway, Navigator and Boomerang. Focus groups liked My Generation.

Like Modern Maturity, it will be published six times a year. But most of the similarities end there. Whereas Modern Maturity is based in Washington and written in "classic narrative" style, My Generation operates from New York City and will strive to be "irreverent and hip without being cynical," Delehanty says.

Also, instead of revolving around several long features, My Generation is divided into roughly 20 sections, such as Leap of Faith (which examines "the pursuit of meaning" in life), Do Right (tips on giving back to the world, with a nod toward the idealism and political activism of boomers), Staying Alive (which focuses on health) and Private Lives (a "where are they now" feature that profiles icons of the boomer era, such as ice cream magnates Ben and Jerry).

My Generation debuts this week with a guaranteed circulation of 3.1 million--reportedly the biggest launch in magazine history--and will also be available at select newsstands, a first for AARP publications, which are usually sent just to members, who pay $10 to join.

Meanwhile, Modern Maturity has undergone some cosmetic surgery. The March-April issue displays a revamped design, and the magazine is now published in two versions: one for people ages 56 to 65 (circulation 7 million) and the other for 66 and up (10.1 million).

The cover story profiles actor Clint Eastwood, "The Sweet Side of Dirty Harry." In contrast, My Generation's cover features actor Ed Harris talking about turning 50. Other articles in the boomer magazine discuss The Band's greatest-hits CD, traveling to California wine country, high-tech gadgets, quitting your job to become a zookeeper ("You'll handle diseased animals, high-pressure hoses . . . ") and romance ("Have Sex, Live Longer!" shouts a headline on the cover).

"This generation of ours refuses to believe it's getting older," writes Editor in Chief Betsy Carter in her introduction to the magazine, pretty much summing up its underlying theme.

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