Last week's ABC figures (ie figures for July to December 2000 released on 15 February) threw up a mixed bag of results for the progress of titles within the men's sector.
The death of the lads' mags has been exaggerated, with the main players FHM, Loaded and Maxim pulling in solid results, although Loaded's sales were down 5.4 per cent to 351,353.
Significantly, the more niche titles aimed at the older end of the men's magazine market did suffer. IPC's Later which has been working hard to pioneer the market, has dropped nine per cent indicating that if there is a huge market for a 30s male lifestyle mag, the formula has not yet been found.
IPC's attempt to find one has not been unsuccessful - the ABC figure for the last six months of last year at 70,267 still puts it ahead of other, more established titles. Esquire, for example, which last year tried to find a point of difference in the market by not featuring scantily-clad women on its cover, dropped almost 10,000 copies between the first and last six months to 61,271.
IPC is still determined to build Later further and has brought in a deputy editor - Mark Sutherland, former editor of the now defunct Melody Maker - to help generate ideas. Later's latest figures will give added impetus to the search.
But if anything, Later's figures might have more impact at some of the other publishers looking at the same market. Dennis, which publishes Maxim, is rumoured to be working on an older brother to the title to give it the strength IPC has with the Loaded to Later spread.
I Feel Good, the publishing company run by Loaded launch editor James Brown, is known to be interested in producing a men's title - possibly in the same grown-up niche.
Both could be discouraged by the latest figures, which indicate readers seem relatively happy to stick with the 20-something titles.
Publishers could decide this means that 70,000-selling niche titles are now the only way to go, or alternatively seek to generate bigger volumes in the 30-something lifestyle magazine market by aiming at both men and women.
This is the idea behind Ampersand, which launches next month. The logic is that men and women's tastes are increasingly converging and that there is room for an intelligent top end magazine that serves both.
Later and Ampersand have a lot to prove between now and the next ABC results. And they need to be wary that in Keith Kendrick, Loaded has just appointed an editor whose background in newspapers and women's magazines make him well placed to extend the brief beyond its present readership.
'Loaded was a success when it launched seven years ago because, unlike the style-and-grooming-obsessed titles at the time, it gave young blokes - ordinary blokes - a magazine that was crammed with stuff that was genuinely interesting and relevant to them. I want to open up that spirit to a wider audience of young men who, I'm told, seem to have a perception that Loaded is all about women getting their kits off. It is not: it's about great writing, ballsy attitude and a surreal sense of humour.
'I am going to use my experience from newspapers and women's weeklies to find stories about ordinary young men who have done extraordinary things.
I am going to give it an even newsier, topical edge. I am going to work relentlessly to make sure everything in the magazine leaves the reader feeling they have gained something useful from the magazine, be it a laugh or learning. And I hope to change the perception - and perception is the key word here - of it being a magazine that somehow sees women as existing for no other reason than to lust over. Of course, we love looking at beautiful women, but there are no misogynists at Loaded.
'The Loaded team has grown up with the title, just as the audience has grown up, and what I want to do is work harder at reflecting that maturity in the pages of Loaded without losing any of its maverick personality.'
Position: publishing director, men's lifestyle brands
'With Later we have the only men's magazine making a serious attempt to address older readers with a broadly-based lifestyle magazine. We already have an ABC higher than Arena or Esquire but we think we can do better, so we are looking again at the magazine to see what refinements we can do to make it more relevant.
'We are at the early stages of looking hard at things like the balance between service and entertainment editorial, between features, reviews and news, and at the number of celebrities. We are not ruling out radical changes, we just feel there is further growth and development possible.
'What has happened in the market is that most magazines have migrated towards the centre ground so one key thing is to ensure you have a point of differentiation. Mark Sutherland's appointment gives us more editorial firepower, triggering a review of the editorial blueprint. The magazine is aimed at professional men in their 30s with families or settled relationships - we just need to home in on them more. Other magazines like FHM and Loaded have some readership here but are basically aimed at men in their 20s.
'We are trying to make a radical jump to the 30s-plus. The nearest competition is with special interest titles like Men's Health - the fact they do well gives us heart.'
Publisher: Ampersand Magazine
'We are launching on 7 March and our magazine will be something with a very, very different cover. We are a men's and women's quality lifestyle magazine aiming at men and women in the 20 to 45 age group. It is difficult to say exactly where we will fit in the market - maybe a