It's Raining Men: An Outpouring of New Titles Threatens to Flood the Market

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An outpouring of new titles threatens to flood the market

NEW YORK CITY-We're barely into the nineties and already some have labeled it the decade of the American man. Not surprisingly, a new crop of men's magazines, seeking to dethrone GQ and Esquire, is eager to cash in on the hype.

Hard to believe it's been a scant two years SinCe Terry McDonell stirred up the category by launching Smart, which he says was the start of the current rush-only partly joking. "When I first went out there, people said, 'You're kidding. What men's market?' "

Now the market is on the brink of an explosion, with four magazines poised to make their debuts before the year is over: Men, Murdoch's Men's Life, Healthy man and a repositioned Details. That doubles the number of titles in the men's lifestyle/ service category, and more than one industry observer is wondering if men really want or need afl those magazines.

Not that the reigning titles are too worried. "I can't imagine a worse time to be starting up a magazine," says Randy jones, publisher of Esquire. "All magazines are going through hard times. It's tough out there. I, frankly, would not want to be in their shoes." But he also notes that when competition increases, the industry leaders often gain.

Are there enough ad pages to support nine magazines? It's interesting to note that the category hasn't seen a dramatic increase in ad pages over the last five years. According to Publisher's Information Bureau (PIB) figures, ad pages for Esquire, M and GQ have gone from 3,910.88 in 1985 to 4,428.28 in 1989, an increase of only 517.4 pages. GQ leads the field in number of ad pages, with 2,231.04 in 1989. Esquire had 1,331. 10 and M, 866.14 during the same year. Revenues for the three were up in 1989, according to PIB estimates: Esquire, 21.3 percent; GQ, 13.2 percent; and M, 7.1 percent.

But why now?

James B. Kobak, a magazine consultant, admits he doesn't know why so many men's titles are starting up now. But it isn't the first time several people have come up with the same idea at the same time, he observes. "The same thing happened in the science category a few years ago. And a lot of people lost a lot of money."

Circulation possibilities may be another reason so many titles are jumping on the men's bandwagon, says Sarah Crowley, associate media director of Hill, Holliday in Boston. Penthouse and Playboy have lost many readers over the last seven or eight years, Crowley notes, and no one is quite sure where those readers have gone. "These [new] magazines are trying to find them," she says. While observing that Penthouse and Playboy seem to have fallen out of vogue with readers, Crowley points out that the titles are repositioning themselves and are still healthy."

The fashion industry has been looking for a way to target the men's audience, adds Crowley. "There's been a definite shortage," she says. "I think two or three more [men's magazines] could succeed, I don't see them all succeeding." There aren't enough ad pages to support all the proposed new titles, she maintains. Esquire's Jones thinks there's a "pendulum effect." The seventies and eighties were dominated by the women's magazines, he says, adding, "Men took a back seat. …