MEDIA: FHM: another British lad mag swims across the pond - In an already crowded field, how does soon-to-launch men’s magazine FHM stand apart from the pack? Claire Atkinson takes a look at this British import and discovers what it is looking for

Her Majesty’s subjects have been invading the US magazine industry. One of the latest arrivals is Ed Needham, the editor-in-chief of the soon-to-launch US version of British title FHM (For Him Magazine). Needham joins a boatload of long-established Brits including Tina Brown (Talk), Anna Wintour (Vogue) and Glenda Bailey (Marie Claire).

Her Majesty’s subjects have been invading the US magazine industry. One of the latest arrivals is Ed Needham, the editor-in-chief of the soon-to-launch US version of British title FHM (For Him Magazine). Needham joins a boatload of long-established Brits including Tina Brown (Talk), Anna Wintour (Vogue) and Glenda Bailey (Marie Claire).

Her Majesty’s subjects have been invading the US magazine industry.

One of the latest arrivals is Ed Needham, the editor-in-chief of the

soon-to-launch US version of British title FHM (For Him Magazine).

Needham joins a boatload of long-established Brits including Tina Brown

(Talk), Anna Wintour (Vogue) and Glenda Bailey (Marie Claire).



But Needham’s more direct competition comes from a former editor of FHM,

Mike Soutar, who is now editing the US version of Maxim, the runaway

magazine success of the year. The title, owned by British publishing

house Dennis, gave life to a downscale general interest men’s category

that was almost nonexistent in the US two years ago.



As the UK men’s magazine market begins to show signs of decline, Emap

Petersen, best known for specialist titles such as Skin Diver and Hot

Rod, is hoping the US will provide fertile new ground.



The sector is already occupied by narrower titles like Details, GQ,

Esquire, Gear and Stuff, as well as those in the related health

category. Needham thinks there is room for more and says, ’FHM is at the

beginning of a trend.’



It is a view echoed by Tony Silber, editorial director at Folio, a trade

title focused on the magazine industry. ’I think there’s definitely room

for FHM, though stealing Maxim’s thunder will be hard to do,’ Silber

says.



Heavy load



Much is riding on Needham’s shoulders. The print run for the first

issue, slated for February, is 225,000. That figure is expected to rise

to 400,000 by the end of the year. The stock market will be watching how

successfully British Emap is able to translate its titles into the US

market through the former Petersen Publishing, which Emap acquired in

January. FHM will be the springboard for other Emap consumer titles in a

range of sectors.



’It is fundamental that FHM be a success,’ Needham admits.



Maxim’s guaranteed rate base for the first half of 2000 is 1.35 million,

which is up 700,000 - or 108% - over the previous year, according to the

magazine. In the UK, however, the situation is reversed, with Maxim

trailing FHM’s audited circulation figure of 701,089 by over

300,000.



’We are different (from Maxim) in every way,’ Needham argues. ’From the

quality of the people to the photos to the paper stock.’



He plans to pour the majority of his budget into the product rather than

spend heavily on marketing and a lavish launch party. There are no plans

to hire a PR agency as of yet.



Needham works on a stretch of Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue that is home to

many potential fashion advertisers such as Paul Smith and Emporio

Armani.



But one key media buyer has mixed feelings about the new title. Roberta

Garfinkle, senior VP and director of print buying at McCann-Erickson,

says, ’My concern is that it is a crowded field and I want to know what

this magazine does differently. It has to be doing something better than

the others. In my mind it is Maxim without the sex.’



And though Garfinkle admits she is impressed by the success of regional

spin-offs in countries as far afield as Australia and South Africa, she

wants to see whether FHM is able to hit the right note with American

men.



Getting into the head of the potential American reader shouldn’t be that

difficult for Needham, who attended the University of Massachusetts and

studied American literature. His working day is currently taken up with

staff interviews and is followed by a culture-soaking round of drinking

engagements that Homer Simpson would be proud of.



In terms of content, Needham believes there isn’t much of the UK version

that wouldn’t attract the target readership, American men aged 18 to 34.

Past cover girls have included Jenny McCarthy, Britney Spears and

Yasmine Bleeth. ’The more I show people, the less it needs to change,’

Needham contends. ’The sexy, funny, useful thing is easy for men to buy

into. The challenge will be to adopt the tone.’



Needham doesn’t think that American attitudes to sex are all that

different from British attitudes. Though US newspapers don’t carry

topless models, he feels that there are many sexual images in magazines

and in the media.



’This isn’t Iran,’ he jokes. ’There is as much sexiness in movies, music

videos and ad campaigns.’



Not just sex



Though sex will undoubtedly be part of the mix, what else will FHM offer

to entice a frat-boy readership to go between the covers? If features in

the British edition are any indication, humor will play a major

role.



FHM’s online edition regularly features the weird and the wonderful. For

example, a ’weird law quiz’ recently asked readers to determine if they

had ever performed the ’illegal’ act of stopping a cocktail waitress

from taking a drink away. Besides the criminal high jinks, FHM will

carry fashion - from catwalk-looks to the latest streetwear. Interviews

with hip, upcoming celebrities will feature heavily alongside reviews

and health coverage.



Headed by Scott Grambling, the Reporter section is the place to pitch

everything from grooming products to gadgets. ’We will cover technology,

music, movies and computer games,’ Needham says. ’All the things that

are material to men. But we are not going to be doing speed boats.’



FHM will initially carry around seven pages of health items, which will

include grooming products. But Needham warns PR pros not to go for the

hard sell. ’You are not going to change our minds,’ he declares. ’We

know fairly quickly what we’re interested in.’



Is he daunted by the heaving racks of magazines on the newsstand?

Needham says no. He feels the articles in other men’s magazines are

simply unmanageable. ’Magazines have to be nimble and agile to fit into

the gaps in people’s lives when they have time to read,’ he says.



’There is so much competition from girlfriends, cars, travel, work,

videos and sports.’



CONTACT LIST



FHM (For Him Magazine) Emap Petersen 110 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10011

Tel: (212) 886 3600 Fax: (212) 886 2824 Editor-in-chief: Ed Needham

Fashion editor: Antony Wright Creative director: Stuart Selner Sections

editor: Scott Gramling Picture editor: Jody Peckman.



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