MEDIA HEADLINER: Man behind Maxim’s success still isn’t ready to take it easy. Eric Fuller wants the title’s circulation to rise by 25% Report by Michele Martin.

Eric Fuller, publishing director of Dennis Publishing’s Lifestyle Division, recalls the scepticism that greeted Maxim on its launch in 1995.

Eric Fuller, publishing director of Dennis Publishing’s Lifestyle

Division, recalls the scepticism that greeted Maxim on its launch in

1995.



’I can’t remember who it was, but someone from Conde Nast was quoted as

saying he’d be astonished if we were still around in a year’s time. Now

we’re selling double GQ, which is satisfying.’



Fuller does not make the comment smugly, but the man brought in to

develop Maxim from ’an idea on the back of a fag packet’ can afford to

be pleased. Last week’s Audit Bureau of Circulations figures confirmed

the trend away from the more established men’s monthlies towards the

younger pretenders. And while FHM notched up a spectacular circulation

of more than 775,000, it was Maxim that registered the sector’s highest

percentage rise.



Circulation of the magazine - originally conceived as a happy medium

between laddy Loaded and highbrow GQ - has risen by a mighty 63 per cent

year on year. Now shifting 300,786 copies a month - compared with

original predictions of 50,000 - it is the third biggest seller in the

market.



For any publishing house it would be a mighty success story, but it is

particularly significant for Dennis. Thanks to Maxim, Dennis has been

able to re-evaluate its business, beginning the transformation from

business-to-business to consumer publisher. It recently sold its core

business computer titles to Reed Business Publishing and began licensing

Maxim abroad in Italy and Greece.



As the man behind Maxim - and the rest of the company’s monthly consumer

stable - Fuller is clearly a key player at Dennis. Yet relatively little

has been written about him - and that’s the way he likes it. ’My

profile’s deliberately low, I get my buzz from seeing a magazine work,’

he says.



He is even less keen to acknowledge the suggestion that he must have had

a crucial role in shaping Maxim, adding: ’That’s flattering, but I think

I was in the right place at the right time.’



Despite the reticence, Fuller’s credentials indicate that he was

uniquely suited to the job. At 46, he might be old enough to have

fathered one of Maxim’s ’average’ 27-year-old readers, but his

experience in male-oriented publishing has proved more valuable than

’yoof’. As both a former rock journalist and one-time publisher of

Drapers Record, he had hands-on experience of two crucial elements of

any men’s magazine when he arrived at Maxim. Such a breadth of knowledge

may have allowed him to take more chances than an ordinary publisher -

including trusting the launch of Maxim to a female editor, Gill Hudson,

from New Woman.



Fuller began his career as a journalist after university, working on a

trade magazine and later Knave before getting what he calls his first

’proper’ job on Sounds in 1978. As a reggae specialist, he followed all

the greats around the world, ’living the rock and roll lifestyle’ and

eventually becoming editor of Sounds in 1984. But, at the grand old age

of 32, he suddenly decided it was time to ’take my career more

seriously’ and traded in his DMs to become the associate publisher of

Sounds instead. ’I didn’t want to be a greying rock journo and I thought

publishing seemed more rounded and challenging,’ he says.



By 1985 he had become publisher of Sounds and, over the next two years,

added other United Newspapers titles to his portfolio, including the

heavy metal magazine, Kerrang!. When United sold the titles in 1991, he

spent 18 months as a publisher for Maxwell International Contract

Publishing, later HHL, learning ’a great deal about account management’

working on titles for the Chartered Institute of Marketing and NatWest.

By 1992, Fuller was moving back to the mainstream, first revamping

Drapers Record for International Thomson Business Publishing and then

moving to Dennis two years later.



With Maxim riding high, Fuller’s decision to move to a company with

little track record of consumer success has now been thoroughly

vindicated. Yet he refuses to be lulled into a false sense of security,

shying away from over-ambitious promises for the brand or the company.

Other men’s magazines may be looking at masthead opportunities beyond

publishing, but Fuller wants to consolidate his magazines first,

primarily taking Maxim’s circulation to 400,000 over the next two

years.



Does that mean he ultimately wants to knock FHM off the top spot? With

typical understatement, he replies: ’I’ve got a healthy respect for FHM,

but I don’t think it’s twice as good as Maxim, whatever the ABCs

say.’



THE FULLER FILE



1978: Sounds magazine, reporter



1984: Sounds magazine, editor



1985: Sounds magazine, publisher



1986: United Newspapers, group publisher



1991: Maxwell International, publisher



1992: Drapers Record, publisher



1994: Dennis Publishing, director.



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