Magazine article Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

A 12-Month Verdict on Four Men's Book Editors

Magazine article Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

A 12-Month Verdict on Four Men's Book Editors

Article excerpt

If you were editor of a top-level men's magazine, the summer of 1997 was a good time to be looking around for another job. Within a few short months, four of the top men's magazines--Esquire, Details, Men's Journal and Sports Afield--all replaced their editors. In the year since, those four high-level replacements have made major changes to the magazines they inherited. So given that it's been about a year since their first issues hit the newsstands, it's a good time to look at which of those changes are working and which aren't.

Men's Journal

Editor in chief Terry McDonell probably knows as much about the men's category as anyone in publishing. He headed Esquire in the late eighties, and Sports Afield more than three years before being brought over to Men's Journal. Since then, he's made some staff changes, signing fashion director John Mather and bringing art director Michael Lawton over with him from Sports Afield.

McDonell also made physical changes to the magazine, cutting its trim size from 10" by 12" to 9" by 10-7/8" to get better rack placement. "We were too big," he says. "We weren't getting positioning and weren't getting displayed." McDonell and publisher Kevin C. O'Malley put the savings into a higher grade of paper.

Inside the book, McDonell expanded fashion coverage, started running more photography, and made the magazine more literary by commissioning writers like novelist Cormac McCarthy. He scored a coup in the October issue by running an excerpt of the new Tom Wolfe novel. (Fellow Wenner title Rolling Stone also ran a portion of Wolfe's novel.) Ad sales and single-copy sales at Men's Journal are both up significantly since McDonell took over, a feat for which he says he takes little credit. "I have a lot of help," he says. "This company is so deeply behind this magazine.


David Granger was at GQ for six years before taking the top position at Esquire, a title that had been foundering under Ed Kosner. Since then, Granger has replaced most of the senior editorial positions. "I don't see how editors can remake a magazine without having the people they most trust working there with them," he says.

Like McDonell, Granger had the benefit of a new art director, Robert Priest, who arrived at Esquire a month before Granger did. The two had worked together at GQ for four years. Granger hasn't substantially altered the design of Esquire, but he has remolded the title editorially, bringing in better writers, more creative fashion photography and new sections--for example "Green," which covers personal finance.

"I think we'll continue to keep playing with the format of the magazine, Granger says.

Ad sales are up substantially in 1998, but single-copy sales for the same period are down. Granger says he's been surprised by what's worked on the newsstand (a cover photo of Garry Shandling, for example, outsold supermodel Cristy Turlington), but adds that he plans to keep experimenting with concept covers rather than merely running celebrities every issue. Most of the title's circulation comes from subscriptions, he points out. "I don't think we're under as much pressure" to move a lot of copies on the newsstand.


Does sex sell? Apparently. The biggest change editor in chief Michael Caruso brought to Conde Nast's Details has been an infusion of testosterone. One of Caruso's first covers was indicative of things to come--it featured a pullout photo of women television actresses wearing lingerie. …

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