Men Slip between the Covers
Kavanagh, Mick, Marketing
Ten years ago the closest men got to a lifestyle magazine was their girlfriend's Cosmopolitan. Now the young man's mag market is, erm, huge, claims Loaded fan Mick Kavanagh
Ask most men about their "inner self" and the traditional response has been more likely to be a punch in the face than an emotional outpouring. But, hey brothers, we are getting in touch with our feelings in a big way, if the growing stack of men's magazines is anything to go by. The conventional notion that real men don't buy magazines unless they're about cars, sport or girls, is now well and truly buried.
Dennis Publishing launched the first issue of Maxim this month. It has a general lifestyle agenda for men and an editorial approach which is, claims publisher Eric Fuller, more down-to-earth than its established rivals Arena, GQ and Esquire.
This year has already seen the launch of Stoneheart's XL, followed by Rodale Publishing's Men's Health. Both are fitness-orientated titles which claim to cover emotional, sexual, clothing and grooming topics, as well as body toning and strategies for reducing beer guts.
Nick Williams, publisher of Men's Health, says: "We are talking about sex, psychology, relationships, things that men may have previously got from looking through women's magazines."
EMAP Metro is planning to launch Total Sport to add to its stable of men's magazine titles, led by FHM. It will compete against Haymarket's Four Four Two (Haymarket is also tipped to launch rock title Encore later this year).
Despite the plethora of new titles, publishers seeking mega-circulations still have to tackle the problem that men feel uncomfortable buying a glossy, style magazine.
Indeed Maxim's launch presentation to agencies suggested that despite the growing commercial success of established men's style titles, barriers still remain in convincing men that they actually need lifestyle magazines.
Studies conducted by Harris Research suggest these general interest men's titles are perceived to be very similar: they are all aimed at yuppies and are deemed irrelevant, too aspirational and inconsistent, with 'homosexual undertones'.
It's a damning indictment but does not phase Eric Fuller, publisher of Maxim: "Men have become comfortable with the prospect of buying glossy magazines. But the tone and pitch of these magazines tend to be very narrow. Our research suggested that people are not satisfied by magazines like GQ, Arena and Esquire, and a simple diet of up-market fashion and consumer goods doesn't reflect across the broad range of interests."
These upmarket magazines are "very consumerist, full of $300 paperweights, and $2000 linen fashion suits shot on location in Cuba," says Fuller. And that leaves plenty of room, he claims, for a less glamourous approach by Maxim, aimed more at the 30-plus age range, away from the wealthy mid-20s paradigm reader of the other titles.
But if the established titles are indeed ploughing a narrow furrow of materialism and supposedly unmanly narcissism, they are doing very well thank you. John Wisbey, publisher of Esquire, says circulation was up 10% last year, and revenues have grown 20% year on year.
"Esquire and GQ have been running on about 700 pages a year, which is a high volume," he says. "The market is growing almost without constraints. Where it is beginning to bite a bit is in advertising volume."
He welcomes the fact that the new magazines are seeking out new editorial gaps, rather than aiming merely to cannibalise the existing market: "The launches are helping to segment the market. It's better than having nine or ten magazines sitting on one pinhead."
For several years, Esquire and GQ have shadowed each other. Now GQ has a clear five-figure circulation lead on Esquire, and a readership of 584,000. While circulation figures for the market leaders remain relatively modest, both publishers claim they now deliver significant numbers, as well as a good environment, to advertisers targeting young, style-conscious ABC1 men. …