MAGAZINE ABCs: FHM tumbles another 9.5% in "extremely challenging" market

FHM, the former leader in the men's magazine sector, has recorded a 9.5% dive in circulation over the final six months of last year according to the latest magazine ABC figures released today.

FHM: on the slide
FHM: on the slide

The former sector barnstormer now has a circulation of 140,716, a drop from 155,557 during the six months to the end of June 2011, despite the appointment of Joe Barnes as editor in April.

The picture for the Bauer Media title is even gloomier if bulks, which currently stand at 20,000 copies, are taken into account.

The latest figure represents a 20.6% year-on-year drop from 177,261, as the men’s market in general continues to freefall with BBC Focus, Men’s Health and new entrant Irish Tatler Man the only magazines within the sector to register more than a 1% rise.

Rimi Atwal, publishing director for FHM, said: "We’re not going to lie about it, the men’s market is extremely challenging and continues to be in long term decline, and I think that FHM as a lead brand within that is suffering.

"However we do believe that we continue to engage with both new and existing readers across multiple platforms, so it’s not just the magazine, it’s a brand engagement strategy. FHM is an integral part of our men’s portfolio and continues to attract premium advertisers."

Amy King, head of press at MPG Media Contacts said: " I think magazines nowadays are much more about the brand and publishers are starting to realise that. So, for example, Bauer have now set up a central trading team who sell across the brands, so from an agency point of view we now have to look at buying into brands.

"It’s not just about how many people are buying that magazine on the newsstand it’s about who’s using the website, who’s looking it up on the iPad, who’s on its Facebook page and that can’t be ignored."

In the lad’s weekly market Nuts girded its position with a 0.1% rise over the period to rest at 114,116 copies, up from 114,019 copies at the end of June last year.

Jo Smalley, publishing director of Nuts, said: "With the notable exceptions of the under-performing FHM and Men's Fitness, the men's lifestyle sector has flattened out period-on-period in print, which is a welcome sign in a challenging time. However I take issue with anyone who says men's brands aren't growing – they simply don't get it.

"Most of us are investing and growing where our audience is going – increasingly that's online and on the go, including smartphones and other wireless devices, to complement our magazine footprint."

The slight rise was a bounceback of sorts if you take into account the 19.8% year on year drop from its position at the end of June last year when 142,212 men were tempted by the weekly’s mixture of girls and sport.

However, relatively, it’s main rival Bauer’s Zoo beat the IPC title to rise 0.5% during the six months to the end of December recording a 54,599 circulation up from 54,318 at the end of June last year, which masked a more serious 20.4% year on year fall from selling 68,610 at the end of June last year.

At the upper end of the men’s market, GQ recorded a 1.6% rise in the final six months of last year, to land at a 120,094 from a circulation of 118,216 copies at the end of June and remained flat year on year, adding 7 copies from its position of 120,087 at the end of December 2010. 

Loaded, which was bought by publisher Vitality in October 2010 and did not record an ABC figure in June, plummeted year on year from a 49,448 circulation at the end of December 2010 to 34,505 copies at the end of December 2011, raising questions about the future validity of the 1990s men’s staple.

Esquire also failed to reverse its downward trend, falling 2.8% during the last six months of the year from 58,218 to 56,583 and recorded a bigger drop year on year, down 4.7% year on year from its 59,382 figure at the end of December 2010.

Dennis Publishing’s oddities magazine Bizarre was down 17.4% year on year from 24,744 copies in December 2010 to 20,428 at the end of December 2011. The title did not record a figure for June last year.  

Kane Publishing’s Front magazine was not included in this round of ABC figures as the title submitted its figures late, but they will be available "in due course", according to an ABC spokeswoman.

In the men’s health sector, Natmag Rodale’s Men’s Health powered ahead adding 1.3% to land at 221,176 copies at the end of December up from 218,368 for the previous six months, but was the victim of a 10.1% drop year on year down from 245,923 copies at the end of December 2010.

Men's Health's circulation outstripped its main rival Dennis Publishing’s Men’s Fitness, which dropped 8.9% over the period from 67,764 to 61,721 copies at the end of December and recorded a 10.3% fall year on year from 68,843 copies at the end of 2010.

River Publishing’s Healthy for Men also recorded a drop of 4.8% from 62,145 copies to 59,157 during the final six months of the year, and had a 1.4% year on year fall from 59,992 copies at the end of 2010.

Future Publishing’s gadget mag T3 also recoded a drop of 13.8% year on year from 56,878 copies at the end of December 2010 to 49,006 at the end of 2011. The title did not record a figure for the half year.

It’s main rival Haymarket Consumer Media’s Stuff remained stable during the six months of last year with a rise of 0.1% from 80,130 last June to 80,226 copies at the end of December 2011. The title dropped 13.7% year on year from its 92,959 figure at the end of December 2010.

Conde Nast’s Wired jumped by 1.8% from 50,150 copies in June 2011 to 51,056 copies at the end of the year. The technology title was up 2% year on year from 50,044 at the end of December 2010.

Vanessa Clifford, head of press at Mindshare, said: "I think we have to be truthful with ourselves and realise that the more general sector, that includes titles like FHM, Zoo and Nuts isn’t holding the interest of its readers anymore and its certainly not growing its market in any shape or form.

"However, anything that seems to be coming from a more focused proposition is fairing better."

In the free sector Shortlist rose by 0.5% over the period from 523,665 copies to 526,359, this piggybacked a 0.9% rose for the title, which recorded a 521,713 figure at the end of 2010.

Harmonia’s Irish Tatler Man was a winner within the sector up 40.2% from its June 2011 figure of 7,557 copies to 10,595 copies at the end of the year.

However, men’s weekly free UTV Media’s Sport dropped 0.5% during the last half of 2011, from 306,217 copies at the end of June 2011 to 304,700 in December. Its year on year fall was 0.6% down from 306,540 copies at the end of December 2010. 

BBC Focus, published by Immediate Media, recorded growth of 1.9% year on year up from 66,454 copies in June last year to 67,727 copies in the cusp of 2011, but the title was 6.2% down from a December 2010 high of 72,183 copies.

RWD Creative Media’s RWD title dropped by 2.1% during the last six months of the year from 98,300 copies to 96,240 copies at the end of the year, it was also down 1.8% year on year.

Top Mens magazines
Title Publisher Dec end 2011 Prd/prd Yr/yr
      change change
Shortlist Shortlist Media 526,359 0.5% 0.9%
Sport UTV Media 304,700 -0.5% -0.6%
Men's Health Natmag Rodale 221,176 1.3% -10.1%
FHM Bauer Consumer Media 140,716 -9.5% -20.6%
GQ Conde Nast Publications 120,094 1.6% 0.0%
Nuts IPC Media 114,116 0.1% -19.8%
Stuff Haymarket Consumer Media 80,226 0.1% -13.7%
Men's Fitness Dennis Publishing 61,721 -8.9% -10.3%
Healthy for Men River Publishing 59,157 -4.8% -1.4%
Esquire Hearst Magazines UK 56,583 -2.8% -4.7%
Zoo Bauer Consumer Media 54,599 0.5% -20.4%
Wired Conde Nast Publications 51,056 1.8% 2.0%
T3 Future Publishing 49,006 N/A -13.8%
Loaded Vitality Publishing 34,505 N/A -30.2%
Bizarre Dennis Publishing 20,428 N/A -17.4%

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