The IPC Media title built a circulation lead of almost 45,000 over Emap's Zoo, but both titles had healthy sales growth between January and June.
Nuts and Zoo, which launched in January last year, now sell more than two million magazines a month between them. Both titles are still making use of price promotions to lift sales, but less so than in previous periods.
An average 64,677 copies of Nuts are sold at a reduced cover price, while Zoo averages 29,759 copies at a lower rate.
Tim Brooks, the managing director of IPC ignite!, says: "This was ahead of our expectations. Nuts is a fantastic title and people love it - apart from the people who work on the broadsheets, who don't read it anyway."
Brooks says it is hard to predict at what rate, if any, Nuts' circulation will continue to grow. "The honest answer is we just don't know, we've not been here before," he says.
Emap, which is attempting to launch Zoo in markets outside the UK, put the title's 30 per cent year-on-year growth down to "relentless vigour and dynamism". Philip Thomas, the managing director of Emap East, says: "With the ambition to internationalise the brand, we see no reason why Zoo can't follow FHM's success to become the publishing phenomenon of the next decade."
In the monthly market, which recorded a total circulation decline of around 4 per cent, IPC's Loaded benefited from its April relaunch and a cut in its cover price from £3.40 to £2.50. This boosted its circulation while the market leader, FHM, and Maxim were both down period on period.
Brooks says: "The changes to Loaded have been a successful response to the market conditions and leave me wondering what FHM and Maxim will do about it."
However, the slight fall in FHM's circulation did little to upset its dominance of the monthly sector. David Pullan, the managing director of FHM Worldwide, says: "We are pretty pleased that FHM remains in a strong position. It's been a turbulent market for the 18 months since the launch of the weeklies and there has been a lot of investment and fairly significant change, the latest being Loaded's price cut."
Pullan says FHM will not follow Loaded in slashing its cover price. "If the editorial proposition of a magazine is struggling to make a mark, then I don't think price cuts are the solution. Loaded's problem is it's struggling between the resurgent editorial content of Maxim and the weeklies.
For us, it's not a viable strategy to cut price. Loaded's ABC may have gone up 7 per cent but how much has that cost? I can't see it as sustainable."
Haymarket's Stuff was the fastest-growing monthly title year on year.
Meanwhile, Men's Health, the NatMag-Rodale title, overtook Maxim with a small year-on-year increase in sales making it the third-largest-selling men's monthly. Maxim was down 2.9 per cent on the period.
Bruce Sandell, the group publishing director of Maxim, says: "We have performed pretty well in a tough market. The true test for Loaded's strategy will be the next two periods. There will be big celebrations over at IPC now but there could be a long hangover."
Sandell says that editorial changes brought about by Maxim's editor, Greg Gutfeld, will help the title maintain a point of difference over its rivals. "The market will continue to be competitive on all levels and the winners will be those with the strongest brand," he says.
Elsewhere, GQ's sale held solid and Esquire's circulation slipped, while Emap's Arena continued to grow its circulation.
Verdict: Publishers predict further sales increases in the weekly market and say it is likely that a third entrant will make an appearance. Changes in young men's media consumption, including increased access to broadband internet, combined with the effect of the weekly launches, will continue to make it a tough market.
MEN'S LIFESTYLE TITLE PUBLISHER Total ABC Period-on- Year-on- period year % change % change FHM Emap 560,167 -3.4 -2.4 Nuts IPC 304,751 10.6 5.0 Zoo Emap 260,317 8.4 30.1 Loaded IPC 237,083 7.7 0.8 Men's Health NatMag-Rodale 228,108 -0.4 3.2 Maxim Dennis 227,377 -2.9 0.2 GQ Conde Nast 125,050 0.0 0.3 Front Highbury Cabal 88,154 4.8 -12.1 Stuff Haymarket 77,373 3.8 10.2 Bizarre Dennis 76,328 -11.1 -12.6 Men's Fitness Dennis 66,474 3.8 7.2 Esquire NatMags 63,605 -10.9 -0.8 Focus Origin Publishing 55,073 3.4 5.4 Arena Emap 46,680 5.3 10.8 Source Audit Bureau of Circulations, January-June 2005.