As the hype surrounding lad's mags has subsided, sales have taken a corresponding downturn. New 'me too' launches in this increasingly homogenised sector also meant that established players such as Loaded, FHM and Men's Health suffered slumps in circulation.
IPC's Loaded, was among the most disappointing, experiencing an 18.8 per cent year-on-year sales decline. The biggest fall occurred at the beginning of the year with sales stablising in the second half, as revealed by the less dramatic three per cent period-on-period drop.
Andy McDuff, managing director, claimed that the market was "full of followers", but added that sales will improve as Loaded returns to its roots of "setting the agenda". Putting men on the cover, he believes, is one example of the title offering a greater point of difference.
Emap Metro's FHM maintained its leadership position, but was down 6.5 % year-on-year. It continued to sell over 700,000 copies however and is still ahead of its nearest rival, Loaded, by over 330,000. Brand extensions, such as FHM Collections and FHM Bionic will continue.
Much greater cause for concern for the publisher is Sky magazine which fell by 24.2% year-on-year to an ABC figure of just over 100,000. Its move to become more 'laddish', mimicking the leaders in the sector, has not paid off. It will therefore "return to a more unisex approach and be marketed much more aggressively," according to Paul Keenan, chief executive of Emap Elan Network.
Although Maxim lost some readers, its fall of 2.1% seemed insignificant, compared to its nearest rivals and magazines such as Men's Health, Arena and Esquire.
New launches including IPC's Later and Cabal's Front helped the sector as a whole grow by almost four per cent to 2.6 million copies. And John Brown's Bizarre and Time's Wallpaper were star performers with 26.7% and 23.3% growth respectively.
Verdict: Existing players will seek much greater differentiation in a bid to appeal to jaded readers. Publishers will also be much more cautious about new launches in this increasingly tough market. Brand spin-offs, particularly in new media, look set to continue.