Magazine ABCs July-Dec 2006: Men's Lifestyle

The men's magazine sector has suffered severe losses as it negotiates the challenges posed by weekly servings of Zoo and Nuts, digital offerings, editorial changes and an audience that may well be growing up.

The sector as a whole dropped by 14.4 per cent year on year, with sales figures falling to 1,978,166.

Hardest hit were the traditional monthly lad's mags, suggesting their readership is migrating online. There is also an underlying sense that the testosterone-driven diet of football, pub chatter and scantily clad women may no longer be the secret formula for engaging male magazine readers. Could this audience be sobering up or getting their fix elsewhere?

The ABC results show heavy casualties at the top end. Emap's market-leading title, FHM, which earlier this month axed its editor, Ross Brown, saw a dramatic sales decline. Its figures were still far superior to those of IPC's monthly rival Loaded, which posted an even greater sales drop.

Eric Fuller, the managing director of IPC ignite!, says: "It's true in the men's sector that monthlies are losing out to weeklies. But our men's monthlies are holding share in the sector proportionate to others. We've got a great editor on Loaded and have a clearly differentiated offering."

Mark Gallagher, the press director at Manning Gottlieb OMD, believes the transition from monthly to weekly magazines is still in progress: "The men's weekly has disrupted purchasing patterns. When they first launched, much of the male readership maintained its monthly habit while tapping into the weeklies as well.

"Over time some of the less committed monthly buyers decide to switch to weeklies. Now you're seeing converted weekly readers who don't need such a frequent weekly fix and are buying less regularly, migrating online or dropping out of the market altogether."

In terms of action from the publishers, Dominic Williams, the press director of Carat, argues that the content is paramount, and that re-engaging with readers through focus groups may be the best way to get it right.

It is easy to blame the weeklies for the troubled fortunes of its monthly cousins, but the figures of both Zoo and Nuts didn't exactly make for pleasant reading. IPC's Nuts - well supported by an ad campaign and five cut-price issues across 2006 - has restricted damage to a year-on-year fall of 3.8 per cent. Emap's Zoo, in comparison, has plummeted by 21.5 per cent - a figure that coincides with its editor-in-chief, Anthony Noguera, moving to FHM, and its deputy editor, Ben Todd, stepping up to the role. The news last week that Arena, too, had removed its editor, Will Drew, suggests that editors may be shouldering much of the responsibility of falling circulation.

But is this fair? Rob Munro-Hall, the managing director, FHM, Emap Metro and Emap East, believes so. Arguing that differentiation is the key to success in the weekly sector, he says: "Obviously, the publisher's responsibility is to strive to find new ways of approaching the markets. But the editor still has a huge role to play in differentiating the product they're in charge of."

The idea of a sobering readership might explain the continued success of Men's Health; NatMag Rodale's fountain of health and lifestyle advice has increased readership for the tenth time in succession and is comfortably ahead of Loaded and Maxim. Conde Nast's discerning style bible GQ plays off a smaller pool of readers, but also managed to increase its circulation.

Meanwhile, Dennis Publishing's free digital magazine Monkey perhaps provides some clues regarding the future. Launched in November and offering a diet of sports, virals, girls, motors and technology, ABCe results show it is already reaching 209,612 readers each month.

Verdict Weeklies will continue to have an impact on their monthly cousins, which will be forced to adapt their content and consider other media channels in order to survive. New digital competition within this sector should also be expected.

TITLE PUBLISHER Total ABC Period-on- Year-on-
period year
% change % change
FHM Emap 371,263 -11.7 -25.9
Nuts IPC 295,002* -3.2 -3.8
Men's Health NatMag Rodale 238,568 1.2 2.2
Zoo Emap 204,564* -10.3 -21.5
Loaded IPC 162,554 -12.3 -29.9
Maxim Dennis 131,497 -10.0 -29.3
GQ Conde Nast 127,505 0.6 1.0
Stuff Haymarket 100,265 8.2 10.5
Men's Fitness Dennis 65,135 -3.8 -3.7
Bizarre Dennis 60,667 -8.0 -15.5
Focus BBC Magazines 59,318 1.8 3.5
T3 Future 55,393 n/a 1.7
Esquire NatMags 52,468 0.1 -3.8
Arena Emap 34,556 -13.9 -29.9
Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations, July-December 2006 *per week.

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