Consumer magazine ABCs - men's lifestyle

Even the lure of inflatable beer buckets and 3D spectacles, editorial chops-and-changes and multiple revamps have failed to buck declining readership in the monthly men’s market.

Hit hardest were IPC’s Loaded, which lost 35 per cent of its circulation over the year and saw Condé Nast’s GQ overtake it for the first time, and Dennis Publishing’s Maxim, which lost more than a quarter of its sales. The market leader, Emap’s FHM, was not immune from the downturn, also losing more than a quarter of its readers. It has since embarked on a gradual redesign of the title under its new editor-in-chief, Anthony Noguera.

The figures read like a possible death knell for men’s monthlies and indicate a very different world to 1994, when the launch of Loaded marked the dawn of the "lads’ mag" era. Since then, the introduction of men’s weeklies has expanded the market twice over in volume terms, while the rise of digital has changed the playing field dramatically. No longer loyal
to one monthly men’s title, 16- to 34-year-olds can get their fix of lifestyle content from a number of places, including digital TV, online and mobile.

Little wonder, then, that publishers are scrambling to meet their audiences in new areas. Three in four of FHM’s total 1.9 million readers interact with the brand, which last month launched its weekly online newsletter, across more than one platform. Meanwhile, Loaded’s website has clocked its first ABCe figures of 206,952 users per month.

In the weekly market, Nuts has experimented with video podcasts crashing into the iTunes UK download chart, as well its mobile channel. IPC will raise the stakes with the launch of NutsTV, which goes live on Freeview on 12 September, reaching a potential audience of eight million.

The penetration of Monkey, Dennis’ online title, is testament to new times. Its second ABCe figure represents a 17 per cent rise in publication openings to 245,404 and gives clues into how to tap into today’s audience. It has no coverprice and has salacious content from the web discreetly delivered into the reader’s inbox each week.

Meanwhile, the landscape continues to change, as publishers find new ways of tapping readers and generating ad revenue. Sport, the free magazine which launched in October last year, now has the highest circulation of any men’s title, suggesting that the free model may provide a route forward for publishers. This will be truly tested in September, when a team led by Mike Soutar, the former editor-in-chief of FHM and IPC director, launches Shortlist, a free "upmarket" men’s title.

So what future for the print men’s monthly? Marcus Rich, the managing director of Emap London Lifestyle, says: "Men are living in an age where the economics have changed. It’s more difficult to get on the housing ladder, jobs are more competitive, women are outperforming men in several areas of career and academics. Where weeklies have frequency and topicality for younger audiences, the monthly magazine is the ideal platform to address larger concerns while retaining sexy and entertaining elements."

His point may be validated by the more upmarket, special-interest monthly titles that are still holding share. The National Magazine Company’s premium men’s title Esquire has increased its readership slightly, albeit off a smaller base of 53,537 copies.

GQ had another steady period, and the continued success of the "manity" sector, including NatMag Rodale’s Men’s Health and Dennis’ Men’s Fitness, indicates men have moved on. In addition, the success of men’s vertical interest titles such as Top Gear, Empire and Official Nintendo Magazine suggest men still have hobbies that will be analysed in more depth, with magazines the perfect platform.