Emap's title posted a strong performance for July to December 2002 by adding close to 7 per cent to its circulation , while Loaded, its closest rival, saw its circulation fall.
The FHM group marketing manager, Nial Ferguson, attributed the circulation rise to an improved editorial product and increased marketing spend. He said: "We can only look at ourselves, but the market is still really tough. While promotion drives the market, readers get more sophisticated and demand more."
Like Loaded, Maxim, the third-largest title, saw a slump in its circulation.
However, its publisher, Dennis, argued this was part of a strategy to refine its target audience.
Conde Nast's GQ and Rodale's Men's Health increased circulation, as did The National Magazine Company's Esquire. However, just 67 per cent of Esquire's sales were actively purchased. Peter Stuart, GQ's publishing director, said: "We increased our readership of 25- to 44-year-olds and ABs. It shows what Dylan Jones (GQ's editor) is doing is hitting the target market."
I Feel Good's Bizarre and Haymarket's Stuff showed there is potential for magazines offering a specific focus.
Verdict The battle for readers in the sector has resulted in victory for FHM, leaving Loaded and Maxim to try to increase circulation while attracting older readers. There is room for circulation growth among a target audience of men over 30.
Title Publisher Total ABC Period on Year on
period % year %
FHM Emap 620,226 6.8 8.7
Loaded IPC 290,214 -6.1 -6.0
Maxim Dennis 250,119 -7.4 -9.6
Men's Health Rodale 218,740 1.0 1.5
Front Cabal 142,287 1.2 -7.4
GQ Conde Nast 123,502 6.1 -1.9
Wallpaper IPC 110,811 -15.5 -16.0
Bizarre IFG 105,620 8.8 0.4
Esquire NatMags 68,075 21.2 9.8
Stuff Haymarket 60,117 6.3 8.1
Men's Fitness Dennis 50,943 1.8 9.4
T3 Future 50,333 n/a -0.5
The Face Emap 42,242 -13.6 -12.9
Arena Emap 31,712 0.9 38.8
Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations (July-December 2002).