Magazine article Marketing

Media with Muscle Power

Magazine article Marketing

Media with Muscle Power

Article excerpt

The rise of the lad's mag has obscured another publishing success story: the men's health and fitness title.

The growth of the men's magazine market is the publishing story of the decade. Since 1992, the market has put on more than one million sales a month and shows no sign of slowing down.

Much of the credit for that growth goes to IPC's Loaded and Emap Metro's FHM, which remarkably now sell more than women's titles such as Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan. Between them, these two men's titles have ridden a wave of 20-something laddishness, with a publishing formula based on beer, sex and football.

The success of Loaded and FHM has, however, obscured a second important trend within men's magazines: the rise of health and fitness coverage.

Men's Health, the title they all said couldn't work in the UK, now sells 188,000 copies a month - a 43% rise year-on-year - and has outstripped more established titles such as GQ and Esquire: Its success encouraged the launch of Conde Nast's GQ Active and Emap Metro's acquisition of health and fitness title XL For Men.

Men's Health publisher Tony Long insists that the magazine is not a niche health and fitness title but is of general interest. "Niche titles sell 20,000 to 40,000. We would never have got to this size if we were a niche title. We cover the broader subjects of work, relationships and stress in a health and fitness context," he says.

Long believes that Men's Health's success reflects good strategy and market research. "Publishers started by putting out magazines for which they believed there was a market. Now they have started looking for where the market is. Magazines like FHM have done a fantastic job of finding out what a guy in his early 20s wants."

The US version of Men's Health was launched ten years ago and now sells 1.5 million copies a month. "We stayed faithful to that formula, which hangs on a form of service journalism," says Long. "We provide a load of useful information that men live by."

Long claims that the UK title's readership is "more upscale, has more income and is better educated than the GQ reader". He says the title could reach a circulation of 500,000 in five years. "It's the most relevant magazine to the largest group of men. If produced properly, it will become the largest."

The target audience for Men's Health is significantly older than many of the other men's titles. "Our average reader's age is 32, whereas GQ's is 27," says Long. "We are aimed at the guy who is moving out of his 20s. His career is advancing, he may be married with kids. The pressures on his time are far greater. He may be exercising less and eating more food on the go. We advise him how to regain control of his life."

This emphasis on age is a key driver in the rise of health and fitness matters. Anyone in the target age group who picks up September's Men's Health will feel a chilling shudder of recognition down their spine. Articles about bad backs and impotence, ads for baldness cures, repeated reminders that 'your belly has crept over your belt' and advice on how to avoid ending up like Elvis make painful reading - although it is done with a degree of humour.

This is the territory that Emap Metro now plans to invade with XL For Men, a magazine for the man who "can't get over his hangover anymore", according to business manager Nick Williams.

Finding its strengths

XL joined the Emap stable at the end of 1996 after tottering along at the 20,000 mark with Affinity Publishing. EMAP has published three issues, although Williams expects October's to be the first to truly reflect the direction Emap intends the magazine to take.

FHM editor Mike Soutar was to have edited the title but he left to run Kiss FM. "October will be the first issue that new editor John Wallace can comfortably call his own," says Williams.

The acquisition of XL fits into the Emap philosophy of keeping readers from cradle to grave. …

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