Media Analysis: A coming of age for the lads' mags

Men's monthly magazines have seen the market they operate in change rapidly. Thomas Williams reports on how the entry of weekly titles and a shift in reader attitude is forcing the stalwarts to rethink their raison d'etre.

Next month's launch of Blink, Parallel Sky's new monthly magazine for 21 to 40-year-olds, and the news that Maxim is on the verge of appointing a new editor, come at a defining point for the men's monthly magazine market.

Editors of these publications admit that the arrival of Emap's Zoo Weekly and IPC's Nuts has had an impact on the way they put together their magazines.

Blink is launching into a market where existing titles are having to redefine the laddish image that made them so popular in their 1990s heyday.

While FHM continues to dominate the sector with a circulation of 601,166, it saw a three per cent fall in its readership during the year prior to the arrival of the weeklies. Over the same period, Maxim's circulation contracted by 2.7 per cent, while the readership of GQ, Conde Nast's much smaller up-market rival, remained flat.

The changing market

But most revealing is last year's nine per cent and 27 per cent circulation falls for the more sensationalist titles Loaded and Front respectively, which suggests that the men's magazine market is not so much in crisis as coming of age.

It is a development that has not been lost on editorial policy. Loaded brought in Martin Daubney as its new editor last year in what some viewed as an attempt to park the magazine's laddish image, while Maxim deputy editor Simon Lewis said his magazine's change of editorship could result in radical changes in editorial policy.

Features, some editors suggest, are pitched increasingly at readers who have left boozing behind at college.

Today's men's magazine readers, they argue, are more likely to be found sipping Chardonnay with their partner in an Ikea-clad yuppie pub.

Nuts and Zoo Weekly have certainly had an impact on how the editors of men's magazines look at their own titles, but the arrival of the weeklies may not be a problem for the publications. The fact that their readers have grown up, however, is.


Owner: Emap London Lifestyle

Circulation: 601,166

Dominic Smith: Managing editor

What kind of men read FHM?

Mags like Loaded hark back to an era of young guns getting drunk together. It is less relevant for our readers to have our pages plastered with naked flesh since they probably drink with women in All Bar One.

How has FHM's editorial been affected by the arrival of Nuts and Zoo?

Publications like ours always like to use a lot of images with a wow factor. But since the weeklies arrived there has been more competition for these pictures as they are often snapped up earlier in the month.

Does that mean that good images are a way in for PROs?

We are visually led, but with female celebrities, for example, access is key. The best stuff does not come from PROs. We get the story.

What is your opinion of PROs?

It is very disappointing when PROs lump Loaded together with FHM and think that all we are interested in is a high breast count.


Owner: IPC Media

Circulation: 263,107

Martin Daubney: Editor

How does Loaded differ from other men's magazines?

The thing about Loaded is that we stand for something. Maxim and FHM really don't have anything to say. We are about enjoying life but that also means we are a bit like Marmite. Maybe only about four out of ten people like what we do but it is only those people we are interested in.

What changes have you made since joining last September?

Apart from hiring new staff, it has just been about improving content and the cover. Last week we did a one-to-one with John Travolta and I haven't seen anything like that in the other men's titles. The weeklies have changed the way we think about our front section so weird covers and jpegs aren't enough.

What's your opinion of PR and PROs?

Bring it on. We have lots of areas like fashion and DVDs that PROs could get involved with and we're pretty keen on great media stunts. We will always give great ideas oxygen.


Owner: Conde Nast Publications

Circulation: 124,022

Dylan Jones: Editor

What's differentiates GQ from the other men's magazines?

GQ is the most up-market men's magazine. Our readers are 28 to 33-year-old ABC1 men who live mainly in the South-East.

Why have some men's magazines suffered a decline in circulation?

It is only natural that after the kind of explosion that you have seen in the men's magazine market that things should tail off a bit.

Can you give us a flavour of the kind of writing you feature?

Since we are more up-market, we have writers like AA Gill, Peter Mandelson and Tony Parsons.

How would you describe GQ's relationship with PROs?

We actively encourage engagement with PROs and there are as many opportunities to get involved with features on sport, motoring, fashion, entertainment and technology as there are pages in the magazine. I go into a tailspin if I get wind of a PR agency having a better relationship with another magazine.

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