Looking at how the media landscape has changed helps us understand where it all went wrong for these 90s cultural icons. Everything, from a change in attitudes through to the shift in media consumption from print to online, has had an impact.
Or was it that their USP was eroded?
Let’s be honest, there was one reason a young lad would buy FHM or Zoo: the photos.
Next was the banter, the funny photos, and the latest DVDs and games, along with photos of injuries experienced by poor lads around the world.
Finally, there was a page or two loaded with useful advice on relationships and health.
The explosion of the internet meant that this sought-after content was easily, quickly and freely available in other online locations.
Lads can now track down revealing images of their latest soap-star crush via one of the many celebrity sites, or from the celeb's Instagram account, some of which boast more followers than the circulation of defunct magazines.
The bonus with these new channels is they don’t require any effort or any awkward eye contact with someone behind a till.
They may not be on the top shelf but these lads' mags were increasingly seen in a similar light.
The mags became contraband and content that was previously consumed openly has gone online.
The content that is sought today isn’t different. A lad is still a lad, so what are they now consuming online?
We only need to look at the rise of networks like TrueLAD and Lad Bible, which all celebrate lad culture, where users contribute content to the community.
‘Banter’ is their currency, and they do a great job at engaging their audience around funny photos and videos.
They are able to break the next viral sensation of a dog eating food with pseudo-human hands, with almost no effort at all.
Then there’s the YouTube fraternity.
Young men spend hours watching other gamers to learn the hints and tricks required to dominate the leaderboard while others watch videos of peers talking about their lives and the challenges they face as a source of advice.
But the final blow is that these YouTubers are a more effective marketing tool than lads' mags of yesteryear.
They deliver a far better ROI and greater tracking of commercial impact than traditional print ads or coverage.
A games publisher can enlist the help of online celebrities to talk about their new product and, in a matter of minutes, the Amazon pre-orders have spiked and the game has flown up the charts.
While this could have been true in the heyday of the lads' mag, a YouTuber with nine million subscribers has greater reach with today’s audience.
Their favourite vloggers not only share their passions, they’re there for what feels like one-on-one advice on specific issues.
Lads are still consuming the same content as before; this consumption is just more fragmented and our challenge is to be ever more targeted and creative in the way we reach them. There will be more casualties to come.
Dan Neale is the co-founder of Alfred
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