Media: Young men still respond to Nuts

Weekly men's titles were all the rage a few years ago. Nuts and Zoo launched within days of each other in 2004, guaranteeing a rush of young men to petrol stations and newsagents and two new lucrative PR opportunities.

Unfortunately, the base mix of boobs, bawdy humour, facts and football stats seems to have veered off the agenda of the target market.

But a blow to sales does not stop the genre forming an important part of a PR professional's media plan.

According to the most recent ABC figures, Nuts' circulation plummeted almost 25 per cent, to nearly 180,000, in the period from July to December last year.

In an effort to counter the slump, publisher IPC Media is throwing its weight behind a refresh of the brand, by backing the magazine with a heavy-hitting £500,000 marketing campaign.

The new-look Nuts features a redesign, a revamped news section and a renewed focus on fashion, which editor Dominic Smith believes will give it a fresher, more modern feel. However, the core staples of the magazine remain. Girls, sport, news, humour and gadgets are at the core of Nuts' editorial agenda, says Smith.

The Cult PR co-founder Matt Glass, who previously freelanced as a journalist at Nuts, says: 'The readers of Nuts are not interested in complex issues surrounding the greenhouse effect or in-depth musings of politicians. But they are keen on seeing what gadgets are available, reading about sport and lots of light-hearted banter and jokes.'

As might be expected, Nuts' preoccupation with topless women has seen it mired in controversy since its launch six years ago.

Smith, however, is firm in his belief that Nuts has no place on the top shelves beside pornographic magazines, despite calls from women's groups: 'We are nothing like those magazines. Topless women are also featured in The Sun and Daily Star, and they are not on the top shelves. However, we fully support a set of guidelines that relies on stockists displaying our magazine out of the eyelines of children.'

He is equally adamant that Nuts is not sexist and claims it has a strong female readership. Smith adds: 'Anyone who says Nuts is degrading (to women) has not read the full magazine and has only looked at the front cover. Our tone is light and playful. It would be a challenge for anyone to look at any of our magazines over the past seven years and say they are degrading.'

It is clear the brands that feature in the magazine, such as Samsung, Vodafone and EA Games, do not have a problem with Nuts' racy image.

James Gordon-MacIntosh, partner at Seventy Seven PR, says: 'Brands have got to be willing to get into the magazine's idiom; they've got to be a bit cheekier than some brand managers are comfortable with. Despite falling ABCs, Nuts is still a route to a young male audience that deserves a place on any PR media plan.'

Circulation: 176,835 (ABC July-December 2009)
Frequency: Weekly
Publisher: IPC Media

A MINUTE WITH ... Dominic Smith, editor, Nuts

- Who is the Nuts reader?

We have a broad readership including students, white-collar workers and bankers, as well as huge readership among the armed forces. When we are writing, we are aiming at readers in their mid-twenties.

- How can PR professionals get involved?

Our news pages are mostly written in-house. They tend to be big entertainment stories, sport, and pop culture, so these are not areas where PROs can help. We do work with PR professionals for our consumer lifestyle, technology products, fashion and male grooming articles, for which we welcome content.

- What makes Nuts different from other men's lifestyle magazines?

Our competitors include monthly magazines such as FHM, Loaded and Front. We are also in direct competition with Zoo, as it is a weekly too. However, we differ in tone from Zoo, as we are more positive and cheerful. Our humour is less biting. We get the bigger cover girls in the sector too. We understand what our readers want and we speak to them regularly through focus groups, so we know what they expect from the magazine. We have now also achieved a new record market share against Zoo, which shows we are not doing a lot wrong.

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