Lad mags failed because 'most men use moisturiser and take selfies now'

FHM, Zoo and other lads' mags failed because "most men are using moisturiser and taking selfies" and don't want to portray a "laddish" image on social media, according to the editor of ShortList.

Martin Robinson: the editor of ShortList
Martin Robinson: the editor of ShortList

Martin Robinson, whose men's title celebrates its 400th issue this week, said old-style lads' print mags had not recognised "a shift in how men are thinking about themselves away from that laddish culture, which has kind of disappeared".

He continued: "Equality in the workplace, the new feminism and the rise of social media mean men are very aware of the image they’re portraying. You don’t want to be showing yourself off as a ‘lad mag face’ [on social media]. You want to give that message you’re a professional – a bit stylish and aspirational."

He said the word "metrosexual", once used to describe a rare man in touch with his emotional side, "seems totally irrelevant now" because it is how most men behave. 

"People used to say, ‘are men interested in clothes, in grooming, in talking about their feelings?’ Turns out we are. Most men are using moisturizer and taking selfies. It’s a much freer world."

Shortlist celebrates its 400th issueShortList was founded in 2007 as an independently-owned free weekly and positioned as a more thoughtful read than Zoo and Nuts and other lads’ mags, which were still selling strongly at the time.

"There were no girls and more emphasis on intelligent journalism – on art as well as sport and gadgets," Robinson said of ShortList’s launch. "There were quite a lot of ‘male interest’ stories. We were early to write about depression and addiction.

"They weren’t being discussed in men’s magazines. It was all, ‘aren’t we great, chaps?’"

The lads’ mag era ended last week when Bauer announced it was suspending publication of FHM and Zoo, and after the closure of Loaded and Nuts.

Robinson said: "I don’t think they went wrong. Their audiences moved away from them. Then they had to chase the audience [online] and Nuts and Zoo became very flesh-heavy at the end and they lost a bit of integrity."

Robinson maintained that ShortList’s "positive, aspirational" agenda and dependence on advertising and sponsored content didn’t affect its editorial approach.

Brand partnerships, such as its music events with Unilever deodorant brand Lynx, showed the benefits of teaming up with an advertiser willing to underwrite the cost.

He said: "Advertisers don’t want to badge things in the old way. They want to create something more unique. You can transform your ideas into much bigger operations [by working with a brand]".

ShortList is primarily a print brand with a 500,000 circulation. ShortList Media, its parent company, is now a £25 million-a-year business, after expanding with sister title Stylist for women.

Robinson said: "People still want to read print but they don’t want to pay for it."

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