Magazine ABCs Jan-June 2006: Men's Lifestyle

Sales of men's monthly magazines have crashed over the past year as men migrated online to digital magazine brands and other outlets.

The men's market declined by 13 per cent year on year, with the downturn being felt more keenly during the past six months. The average sale is now slightly more than two million copies at 2,024,592 across the sector.

Emap's FHM was one of the hardest hit magazines, although it is still comfortably the market-leading title.

Publishers are now working on establishing their men's titles as brands that can be stretched across other media, such as online and mobile, to compensate for the loss of sales from the print editions. Dennis Publishing is working on a launch, Project Monkey, that will focus online.

Marcus Rich, the group managing director of Emap's lifestyle and entertainment magazines, said he was not overly worried by FHM's performance. He claims it was in line with the rest of the market, but admitted that the emergence of the weekly market is damaging sales.

He says: "Some of FHM's readers are buying the weeklies, but the market is quite mature now and we are not expecting decline on this scale during the next ABC period."

Rich said the strength of the FHM brand across all platforms was the publisher's number-one priority. He explains: "What's important is that the brand becomes bigger, whether it's print copies, online or mobile."

Emap is currently working on a new look for the title to coincide with its October issue in a bid to appeal to older readers.

IPC Media's Loaded also fared badly, with circulation declining by more than one-fifth.

Eric Fuller, the group publishing director of IPC ignite!, argues consumer buying habits are beginning to take a more permanent shape two-and-a-half years after the weekly magazine market was created with the launch of Nuts and Zoo.

He says: "The monthlies are down because this is the first time there has been a significant impact - people's buying habits take a long time to change. We are not finding that our readers are using the internet instead of buying the magazine, but more of our readers are going online."

Loaded's main rival, Dennis' Maxim, reported the largest circulation drop. The title parted company with its controversial editor, Greg Gutfeld, during the previous ABC period and has hired the former Nuts deputy Derek Harbinson to turn around the title.

Bruce Sandell, the managing director of the consumer magazine division at Dennis, says: "It's difficult to find any light in it, but our market share is level and sales have reduced at the same level as the market."

The weekly titles Nuts and Zoo both recorded circulation declines. Fuller says Nuts has reached a "circulation plateau". Both have built a strong online presence, which is cannibalising circulation of the print versions, while Zoo's marketing presence was low-key, having changed advertising agency arrangements mid-ABC period. The title was off air for five months.

With the exception of GQ, the upmarket men's monthlies were not immune to the market downturn - both Emap's Arena and The National Magazine Company's Esquire lost sales.

Dylan Jones, the editor of GQ, says: "We are the only magazine to have gone up because we are the only one offering anything different. We avoid covermounts as they only achieve short-term gain. All we will do is add value on an incremental basis."

One of the few monthlies to emerge with any credit was Stuff. The gadgets and gizmos title, which is published by the owner of Campaign, Haymarket, saw its circulation increase by almost one-fifth.

Verdict Publishers are confident that circulation will be less volatile during the next 12 months as the weekly buyers have sorted themselves out from the consumers of monthly titles. Despite fervent speculation, the market is not expecting Zoo or Nuts to publish twice weekly. However, Dennis' Project Monkey is likely to provide stiff competition.

TITLE PUBLISHER Total ABC Period-on Year-on
-period -year
% chg % chg
FHM Emap 420,688 -16.0 -24.9
Nuts* IPC 304,785 -0.7 0.0
Men's Health NatMag-Rodale 235,833 1.0 3.4
Zoo* Emap 228,024 -12.5 -12.4
Loaded IPC 185,268 -20.1 -21.9
Maxim Dennis 146,043 -21.4 -35.8
GQ Conde Nast 126,797 0.4 1.4
Stuff Haymarket 92,672 2.1 19.8
Men's Fitness Dennis 67,674 0.1 1.8
Bizarre Dennis 65,959 -8.1 -13.6
Focus Origin Publishing 58,272 1.7 5.8
Esquire NatMags 52,437 -3.9 -17.6
Arena Emap 40,140 -18.6 -14.0
Source Audit Bureau of Circulations, January-June 2006 *per week.