Lads' mags set to run male covers

Conde Nast is considering a shift in cover policy for GQ that would see its more raunchy covers, such as last year's Jordan issue, making way for iconic male subjects.

The publisher is awaiting sales figures from the magazine's April issue - the print run for which was split between covers featuring the Spiderman starlet Kirsten Dunst and the Jamiroquai frontman, Jay Kay - and will use the trial to judge readers' reactions to male covers.

Positive sales for the Jay Kay edition would open the way for a cover policy more akin to that followed by the National Magazine Company's Esquire, and further away from the lads' mag sector of the men's market.

Dylan Jones, the GQ editor, said: "You could say that this is an experiment. We also have a solo male cover in June and possibly another in August."

GQ is one of four men's titles planning a move away from the lads' mag formula following a catastrophic set of ABC results for the men's market, which saw overall circulation fall 12 per cent year on year in the July to December figures. The changes seem designed to bolster publishers' ad revenues in the light of drooping issue sales.

Emap Elan's Arena, which has the lowest ABC recorded circulation in the men's market, is also said to be considering a shift to male covers as speculation grows that the title could close by the end of the year.

In addition, two of the traditional lads' mags are planning to soften their approach in a bid to appeal to more upmarket or mature audiences.

Maxim, the third-placed magazine in the men's sector, is set to launch a redesign with its July issue that will be aimed at men in their late-20s and 30s.

Meanwhile, FHM, the market leader, is promising a shift in direction for its May issue, out on 18 April, that will be backed by a TV advertising campaign during the summer.

FHM saw circulation fall 20.4 per cent year-on-year to 570,719, while Maxim suffered a 15.8 per cent drop to 276,640 and GQ suffered 10.2 per cent drop to 125,885.

After a recovery in the previous period, Arena saw its sales drop 23.8 per cent over six months to 38,182.

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