IPC Media's Nuts and Emap Consumer Media's Zoo are now selling close to 500,000 copies a week between them, meaning that they have almost doubled the scale of the men's market.
Nuts grabbed an early lead in the sales battle with Zoo, with both titles publishing their first circulation figures since launching in January.
The two titles have made heavy use of cover price discounting to achieve their sales figures, by regularly dropping their £1.20 cover prices to 50p to bring in readers.
ABC figures show Zoo is more heavily reliant on this promotional device, with 87,323 of every 200,125 copies sold at a lower rate. Nuts sells an average 53,861 of its 290,337 circulation at a lower rate.
The magazines will face strong competition following the launch of H Bauer's weekly Cut last week and Northern & Shell's proposed launch of KO! magazine in November.
Industry sources suggest that the two magazines will settle down at around the 200,000 mark after the initial first months of heavy advertising support.
Their launch has had less of an impact on sales of monthly titles than many expected. Emap's market-leading FHM title lost 4.5 per cent of its sale.
Loaded and Maxim were harder hit, but both titles had been losing sales before the launch of Nuts and Zoo.
David Pullan, the managing director of FHM Worldwide, says: "We are delighted. In a period of immense upheaval with two major launches, aggressive price-cutting and large-scale marketing support for rival titles, we have demonstrated the power of the FHM brand and the relevance of its editorial to readers."
Eric Fuller, the group publishing director of IPC ignite!, is the publisher of both Nuts and Loaded. He says: "We knew from the off that there would be some collateral damage (to sales of Loaded) but, frankly, we didn't know how much. The result shows how resilient the men's monthly sector is."
Dennis Publishing's Maxim, the third-best-selling monthly, suffered a 9.6 per cent year-on-year fall in circulation. However, it is hoping for a reversal in its fortunes following the recent arrival of Greg Gutfeld as its editor.
Bruce Sandell, the group publishing director at Dennis, says: "Our part of the market was down 6 per cent period on period and Maxim was down 6.7 per cent, so we are in line with the market. We have performed better than our main competitor, Loaded, and the new-look Maxim starts with the October edition." Sandell adds that Dennis has no plans to launch a men's weekly title.
The launch of the men's weeklies has had little impact on sales at the quality end of the men's monthly market. But the closure of Jack showed that titles cannot afford to be complacent. Men's Health posted a slight increase in its circulation, while Conde Nast's GQ recorded a healthy 3 per cent rise.
Haymarket's Stuff was an impressive performer in the men's monthly market with a 13 per cent year-on-year rise, reflecting the iPod generation's increasing obsession with gadgets.
Arena continued its impressive growth with a 29 per cent increase in circulation, but its main rival Esquire, which boosts its circulation by giving away 22,525 free copies, lost 7 per cent of its sales.
Verdict The men's weekly market will become a battleground with two new entrants fighting for sales. Expect more use of cover price promotions and heavy marketing spend. Monthly titles such as FHM and Maxim are fighting to differentiate themselves with redesigns that put the emphasis on more serious editorial content.
TITLE PUBLISHER Total ABC Period- Yr-on-yr
on-period % change
FHM Emap 573,713 -4.60 -4.50
Nuts IPC 290,337 n/a n/a
Loaded IPC 235,140 -10.60 -10.20
Maxim Dennis 227,017 -6.70 -9.60
Men's Health NatMag Rodale 221,049 0.30 1.00
Zoo Emap 200,125 n/a n/a
GQ Conde Nast 124,685 0.50 3.30
Wallpaper IPC 107,800 0.00 -2.80
Front Highbury Cabal 100,259 -2.90 -9.10
Bizarre Dennis 87,331 -8.20 -13.70
Stuff Haymarket 70,230 8.00 13.30
Esquire NatMags 64,136 -8.60 -7.30
Men's Fitness Dennis 62,008 3.30 10.10
Focus Origin Publishing 52,236 2.40 n/a
Ice Ice Media 47,729 n/a n/a
Arena Emap 42,136 3.70 28.90
Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations, January-June 2004.