Media: Buck takes on the lads' mag stags

Are men finally growing up? Magazine circulation figures would suggest so. Lads' mags littered with buxom babes and geeky gadgets are seeing their sales plummet, while the big market winners are the more upmarket titles such as GQ, Esquire and Arena.

According to the latest ABC figures released last month, FHM, Nuts, Zoo and Maxim all saw their sales nosedive in the first half of 2008 - with Maxim losing 57 per cent compared with the same period in 2007. That equates to a loss of more than 64,000 readers.

It is this trend that convinces Steve Doyle, editor and publisher of new men's monthly Buck, that his new venture is going to succeed.

Buck hit the shelves of retailers such as Tesco, WH Smith and M&S on 31 October. It has replaced Arena at Tesco - no mean feat for a maiden voyage. It will also be sold internationally.

Billed as focusing on fashion, furniture and food, Buck is aimed at men aged 20 to 30 and Doyle says Arena would be the closest rival. Fashion will feature designer, vintage and high street looks, and one-quarter of the editorial will be devoted to food. Notably absent are the busty blondes in bikinis.

'Men don't want to read about babes and gadgets any more,' says Doyle. 'The market has changed and young men are looking for something different now. The things you used to find in FHM - girls in bikinis - you can now find online. We're providing something that treats young men like adults. Women's magazines have been doing this for years.'

So will the approach work? Kyla Flynn, account executive at MCG PR, who has successfully pitched to the magazine, thinks so. 'There's a gap in the market for a male version of Grazia, which is how I would see this magazine.'

But Dan Holliday, MD of Not Actual Size, is not convinced: 'It's basically a men's magazine without tits. This is all well and good but where's the sizzle? Sober and upstanding has some potential but to have real impact you need to take an extreme position.'

Andrew Bloch, joint MD of Frank PR, adds: 'On the face of it, there is a market for Buck, but the likes of Wallpaper, Dazed & Confused and GQ are established players with strong brands and loyal readerships. Its ultimate success comes down to whether it is right in its assumption that men have shifted culturally and their interests are currently not being catered for.'

Christine Morgan, director of consumer at Good Relations, says there are opportunities for PR pitches, but big, mainstream brands might not be as welcome: 'Brands have to fit the readership. Menswear and accessories are an opportunity, along with food and drink, but they seem to be looking to feature emerging talent more than mainstream.'

Quick facts
Frequency: Monthly
Cover price: £3.95
Staff: Nine
Editor: Steve Doyle
General pitches:
Fashion: fashion@

A minute with ... Steve Doyle. editor and publisher

- Where did the idea for the magazine come from?

I lived in Tokyo while studying for a degree in Japanese and became a great fan of the men's style magazines out there. They are quite different from our men's magazines in that they feature fashion heavily and I always believed that if it could be a success there, then why not here?

- Who is your target demographic?

Educated ABC1 young men aged 20-30 and their girlfriends. Buck readers will mainly live in cities, normally renting, possibly sharing, so we feature products they can move around easily.

- How confident are you of success in the current economic climate?

Hopeful. The magazine is very distinctive and offers many new feature ideas for male readers. Hopefully the combination of availability and distinctiveness will keep us going.

- What you can offer to stand out from your competitors?

Fashion for young men, affordability, food and real people. We do not idolise celebrities.

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