The market for men's lifestyle magazines is booming. Most respond to PR pros who have good relationships with editors and eye-catching photos. Oh, and it helps to work sex into your story.Only a few short years ago, marketers and public relations executives lamented how difficult it was to reach young American males. While there were plenty of outlets aimed at teens and young women, the average 18- to 30-year-old man was almost considered a media lost cause. Sure, there were sports and music outlets, but little in the way of lifestyle, and many young men had trouble relating to the high-end fashion and serious career advice found in magazines such as Esquire, GQ, Details, and Playboy.
But thanks to the recent launch of a host of magazines such as Maxim (1.15 million circulation), FHM (821,834), Stuff (976,380), Gear, King, and Stun!, men's lifestyle journalism is in the midst of a remarkable transformation, from famine to feast.
"What's really great about these magazines, is not only do they really hit that sweet spot of 18-22 years old, they also reach slightly younger males who who are aspiring up to that category ... and late 20-somethings and 30-somethings are aspiring back to that age,
says Amy Paterson, VP with Lane Marketing Communications, which represents toolmaker Leatherman.
"It's almost as if guys have finally been given approval to go out and buy a magazine,
adds Ernestine Sclafani, Edelman Worldwide VP and director of consumer media planning. "The invasion of the British publications - such as FHM, Maxim, and Gear - has really served to broaden the audience for magazines overall."
Many of these magazines are finding success by duplicating the same blueprint: Combine plenty of pictures of bikini- or lingerie-clad women with a healthy dose of product, entertainment, and fashion reviews, add in some humorous relationship advice, and deliver it all with an irreverent attitude.
But while many of these magazines look similar, Bruce Shoengood, editor-in-chief of Stun! magazine, insists there are a lot of differences among the titles. "If you really read our magazine, it's much more of a humor and entertainment magazine,
he explains. "It's also skewed toward the blue-collar guy who watches television and goes to the movies. It's certainly not a magazine that's going after the audience that reads GQ."
Readers find beauty on the inside
But while it may be the beautiful woman on the cover that initially attracts an audience, it's the product news and reviews that keep them reading.
PR agencies and their clients are quickly finding that the 18- to 24-year-old male is in many ways an ideal consumer.
True, they generally don't have the earning power of people a decade or so older. But many are employed full-time, perhaps for the first time in their lives, and they're still not encumbered by worries such as mortgages or retirement funds. Thus, they spend everything they make on wants rather than needs, and they want dates, drinks, food, entertainment, electronics, cars, and hip - yet affordable - fashion.
Paterson points out that many of these men's outlets are very picture- and layout-oriented, so PR professionals need to place emphasis on the art that accompanies any product pitch. She adds that while some men's outlets do their own product photography, she keeps on hand both straight product photos and more "artsy
pictures of Leatherman's Juice tool line for outlets that lack either the time or resources to do their own photo shoots.
Many PR professionals say its difficult to generalize about men's lifestyle reporters, but several note that they tend to be slightly younger than traditional magazine writers, and therefore close in age to their audience.
One of the real differences between Esquire, GQ, and the more established magazines and the new lifestyle outlets is in the writing and layout.
"Maxim and FHM are more geared toward quick tidbits of information," says The MWW Group's Matthew Messinger. "They don't do the traditional feature. The key journalist at Esquire may be a writer like Jake Tapper, while at Maxim it's editor-in-chief Keith Blanchard or art director David Hilton."
John Liporace, SVP with Alan Taylor Communications, says the other major difference is in the target age. "Esquire, GQ, and Playboy are definitely skewing older than the new magazines we're talking about,
Bender/Helper Impact VP John Foster says many clients still value placement in quintessential magazines like Rolling Stone over a story in Stuff or Gear. But Liporace, whose agency represents Jose Cuervo and Smirnoff vodka, notes that this attitude is quickly changing in some categories. "With many of our spirits clients, their first choice would be Maxim, Stuff, or Gear,
he says, "whereas five years ago, the Esquires and GQs were the home runs for a PR person."
Heather Nevesky, a media relations executive with MS&L, points out that new men's magazines still retain a bit of the unknown. "If it's GQ, you know the outcome will be a straight product story,
she says. "But with a Maxim or Stuff, it can turn into a sexual angle."
How far will the trend go?
The major question going forward is no longer whether this men's lifestyle boom can last, but whether the current flood of magazines is just the beginning of something much bigger. Foster, for one, says, "So far, it doesn't seem to have come close to critical mass.
But, ironically, attempts to translate this formula to other media such as television have thus far been mixed at best. While shock jocks such as Howard Stern continue to appeal to this audience, and new TV shows such as Comedy Central's The Man Show are successful, there have also been failures, such as the short-lived X Show on the FX network.
As to what type of PR pitch works best in this category, many PR execs say that exclusives aren't really necessary. But they do advise developing personal relationships with as many reporters and editors as possible.
It also doesn't hurt if the story has some overt sex appeal. Crunch Fitness, for example, had great success with a PR campaign centered around "cardio striptease,
a dance-based fitness class for both men and women that teaches seductive movements, as well as how to do a lap dance.
Dayna Crawford, public relations director for Crunch, says the campaign fit perfectly with the men's magazines in that it offered an irreverent and edgy take on a subject (fitness) that occasionally gets taken a bit too seriously. The cardio striptease story was covered by Maxim, Men's Health, and Playboy, as well as Howard Stern's syndicated radio and E! late-night television shows.
Crawford says that while the story triggered a lot of interest simply based on the concept, she did go out of her way to make sure that journalists got to attend a class if they wanted to, and she also commissioned a lot of photography that outlets could simply slot in alongside their stories.
WHERE TO GO
Magazines: Maxim; Stuff; FHM; Men's Health; Stun!; Slam; Gear; GQ; Playboy; Esquire; Rolling Stone; King; Sports Illustrated; ESPN; Loaded; Rolling Stone; Spin; Blender
Television & Radio: The Man Show; Howard Stern; national and regional morning drive-time radio programs; Maxim Minute with ABC; E!
Websites: Maximonline.com; Stuffmagazine.com; FHM.com.