Just what the magazine market is crying out for: yet another men's lifestyle monthly.
At first glance, in a publishing niche that took a bracing 14.4 per cent overall drop at the last ABCs, this almost seems to be counter-intuitive logic. Yet Trojan Publishing - home to top-shelf veteran Penthouse - believes that the time is right for a magazine like Switched On.
The company promises the title will be a mixture of sport and gadgets, and has brought in IncrediBull Ideas for the launch (PRWeek, 2 March).
This week's debut comes at a tricky time. The rise of uber-lads' mags Loaded and FHM during the 1990s was the textbook example of a publishing phenomenon, but the most recent ABCs were bloody for both titles: Loaded's circulation plummeted by 30 per cent to 162,554, while that of market leader FHM fell by 26 per cent to 371,263. The big brands are in steady decline.
Elsewhere, GQ's ABC is fairly stable, but Maxim, Arena and Esquire are all down.
Switched On's launch editor is Anthony Teasdale, a journalist and DJ. He previously worked on Mixmag and edited Ice, the unabashed (some said ‘sleazy') magazine for men.
‘This is a magazine for today, not some idea of what the 1990s lad was about,' Teasdale insists. ‘Our readers will be 20 to 45-year-old men with a brain.'
Part of what they will want to read about, he says, is gizmos. And this is where Trojan may have spotted something: amid the general carnage in men's magazines, fellow gadget title Stuff's circulation rose by 10.5 per cent in the second half of 2006 to 100,265.
Thus Switched On wants to tap into one of the sector's few current success stories. Fraser Macdonald, editor of Stuff, says: ‘It's definitely a growth market but I'm wondering whether a mix of sport and gadgets will really get its own readership. Our research suggests our readers are not all that interested in sport.'
But Teasdale begs to differ, suggesting that he only reads a third of Stuff or other gadget rival T3. Meanwhile, Simon Caney, editor-in-chief of free weekly Sport, reckons it is the sports bit that might be difficult for a new paid-for monthly. ‘If you're not careful you will do football each and every month,' he says. ‘It will be interesting to see in six months' time. Sport and Observer Sport Monthly would struggle if they were on the newsstand.'
OSM is certainly another supplement from which Teasdale says he will gain inspiration. Unlike his former Ice stomping ground, where some of the current editorial team have also worked, Switched On will also cover subjects such as fashion and travel, and will have only a passing focus on scantily clad women. ‘There will be one girl shoot,' says Teasdale.
His gadget wish-list is straightforward enough. Teasdale says he wants ‘the latest, most innovative technology'. He adds: ‘Before this was the preserve of geeks and lads who weren't very good with girls, now it's for all of us. We've got a very strong gadget heart.' In fact, there are 32 pages of it, and editorial will include plasma TVs, phones, MP3 players and digital cameras, with a price guide every month and sections such as Device Den and Sport Tech.
On the sports side there will be at least 20 pages per issue. ‘We might be interested in hearing from people
representing football teams, or those organising amazing trips to places,' Teasdale continues. ‘We want to get involved. If it's a rugby team, for instance, we want to train with them and find out what the equipment is like in the gym. Say you make yachts for a living, we could do something with that.' A golf gadgets special is due in issue two.
Switched On will sit on the shelf alongside several other men's lifestyle titles and techy mags such as Stuff and T3, says Teasdale. But he is determined that it will not be London-centric.
‘Influences on the magazine are Time Out, Stuff, National Geographic and Wallpaper*. We want it to be high-end.'
A mixed bag
Cult author Irvine Welsh and Twickenham rugby ground feature in the first issue, along with a feature on special forces in Afghanistan and - not at all lads' mag, this - a long piece on Britain's patron saints. There will also be three pages of music, game and film reviews and previews.
Colin Crummy, who reports on the magazine sector for Press Gazette, wonders if there is a market for all the elements that will feature in Switched On. ‘Over the past couple of ABCs, the things that are working are niche interests such as gadgets,' he says. ‘Whether or not putting sport and gadgets together will work, who knows.'
But Teasdale reckons something different is certainly needed. ‘The lads' market is sewn up by the weeklies [Nuts and Zoo]. You can buy what Loaded, FHM and Maxim give you for 70p, instead of £4.'
Men's monthlies, including T3 and Stuff, all cost between £3 and £4, so Switched On's £3.90 cover price is in line. ‘I want PR people to come to us,' says Teasdale. ‘We are especially interested in "good celebrities", men and women who stand for something.'
He suggests Apple founder Steve Jobs or chat show host Jonathan Ross as examples.
‘Switched On will be like a perfect Sunday supplement, chock full of articles that you're interested in,' Teasdale concludes. ‘And how many other magazines do features on sports equipment? None.'
But how many men will want to read them? That's the ultimate question.
Switched On: who’s who at the magazine
Email all feature and news enquiries to the relevant section editors below:
Editor Anthony Teasdale, E email@example.com
Gadgets Jon Boon, E firstname.lastname@example.org
Sports Terry Daley, E email@example.com
Contributing editor Stuart Messham, E firstname.lastname@example.org
Picture editor Adrian Callaghan, E email@example.com
Art editor Thomas Ludewig, E firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have other enquiries phone the switchboard: T 020 7608 6300