Loaded, the first lifestyle title aimed at regular lads,
revolutionised the world of men’s magazines. But its top-selling
position has been taken by FHM and its babe factor, Anne-Marie Crawford
Talk to certain press buyers and they love to tell you about the time
that Tom Moloney, the chief executive at the publishing giant, Emap,
said men’s magazines would never sell.
Moloney allegedly made this remark back in 1990. Remind him of it now
and he coyly claims not to recall the context in which it was made. ’I
don’t really remember saying it but if I did, it was just a bit of
Hindsight is a wonderful thing,’ he says wryly.
Today, with the men’s market enjoying 400 per cent real growth on the
back of pounds 30 million worth of cover sales, and with Emap publishing
the best-selling monthly magazine, FHM, men’s magazine publishing is a
But rewind to the media environment of the late 80s, and it’s clear that
Moloney had a point. In 1990, the men’s magazine market was a different
proposition from what it is today. Back then, the sector was dominated
by the likes of the Face, Arena and the music bible, Q.
Opinion is divided as to which title lit the touch paper. According to
Paul Mukherjee, head of press at the Network, Q kicked it all off in
Moloney agrees: ’Q was the first stylish title to come out aggressively
and make a lifestyle statement about its readers.’
For Andy McDuff, a publishing director of Loaded, it was Arena. ’Arena
was the first true men’s magazine but it was a product of its time.’ For
’of its time’ read late 80s, trendy, slightly gay and rather niche. GQ
and Esquire epitomised the Thatcher years in that they were
aspirational and targeted an Armani-clad generation for whom greed and
gloss were gods.
According to Philippa Stuart, the head of press at Motive, these titles
were just a bit too intellectual and ’up their own arses’ to really
appeal to the majority of ordinary blokes. Richard Britton, the press
director at CIA Medianetwork, agrees: ’GQ and Esquire were aimed at a
specific, slightly older audience. They were high-brow and fashion
conscious.’ By their very nature, these magazines excluded large swathes
of younger, less affluent men. They didn’t reflect the lives of their
readers and were becoming out of tune with the times.
Of course, thousands of men were reading special interest magazines
during this period - as they still do. But that also meant the market
and, therefore, the readership, was highly segmented and a less
attractive proposition to mainstream advertisers.
Cars, hi-fi, fishing, shooting, music, sex: men with these interests
were served well by existing titles, but there was nothing that could be
termed truly ’lifestyle’, or that would particularly appeal to
mainstream advertisers. Men in large numbers remained an untapped
audience. ’Six years ago it was difficult putting a schedule together to
reach men,’ Stuart says.
So what happened to revolutionise the market to such an extent that the
two best-selling magazines, Loaded and FHM, between them now sell almost
three quarters of a million copies and men’s magazines have become
coveted advertising vehicles?
According to Moloney, it’s because men’s magazines now manage to speak
to, and make a connection with, a much larger audience.
McDuff agrees: ’In the early 90s we did research that revealed most of
the magazines out there were irrelevant to many men.’
IPC’s answer to the problem, of course, was Loaded, which made its first
appearance in 1994. No one would deny that Loaded took the market by the
scruff of its neck, but there were other factors at work which meant it
was no longer regarded as ’poofy’ for a man to buy a magazine. Research
indicates that over the past decade, men have gradually become more
interested in themselves and their changing role in society. According
to Moloney, they have developed an interest in many of the elements that
have driven women’s magazines, such as how they relate to their lover,
friends, boss and even their own bodies - interests that have all helped
fuel the growth of lifestyle titles. ’Traditionally, men didn’t have
that angst. Their attitude was ’I’m a man - I drink, I fart, I exist’.
This is a new phenomenon,’ Moloney says.
A recent Mintel report notes some of these social changes, remarking
that ’men are more prepared to speak more freely on personal matters
such as grooming and are more ready to express feelings’.
It also points out that with lower/later rates of marriage and higher
divorce rates, a growing proportion of the total population lives in
single person households. Therefore, it is increasingly likely that men
will experience several periods of living on their own during their
lives and are likely to turn to a magazine to help them feel
A more mature market will enable advertisers to target male consumers in
a host of different categories such as white goods, as well as the
clothing, drinks and sports advertisers that currently crowd the pages
of men’s magazines.
Just as importantly, the growth in ABC1 men who constitute the core
readership of men’s lifestyle magazines has helped fuel the growth of
In 1991, ABC1 men made up 22.8 per cent of the population, while in 1996
the figure was 25.5 per cent. The forecast for next year is 26.5 per
Mukherjee has noted other important social changes: ’Male dominance in
society has been challenged and men are no longer as secure in what they
think. Many people in the late 20th century, particularly men, have
believed they can buy themselves an advantage. Their expectations have
changed considerably and magazines tell them how to buy that advantage.
It’s about having the right clothing, looking groomed and being seen
eating and drinking in the right places.’
Just flick open a copy of FHM magazine and you’ll see exactly what he
means. It’s full of lists: ’Ten ways to get a woman in the sack, ten
ways to tell if your girlfriend is cheating on you, ten things you
should have done by the age of 30’ and so on. The lists are endless.
If Q and Arena started the juggernaut rolling, Loaded has ensured it
will reach maximum velocity. IPC launched Loaded after exhaustive
research into what 15- to 34-year-old men wanted in a magazine and it
constitutes a milestone in men’s publishing. Loaded is relevant,
unpretentious, glossy, different and funny. As Britton says, ’Loaded
broke the mould and made everything possible in one magazine.’
Arguably, every other title has bought into this approach in one form or
another, and all appear to have enjoyed success (not a single men’s
title was down in the latest round of ABCs).
Although FHM recently overtook Loaded to become the top-selling male
monthly title, there are definite differences between the two titles and
some buyers argue Loaded is the more enduring brand.
FHM’s success appears to be largely based on ’sex sells’. Whereas Loaded
will happily devote its cover to the likes of Dennis Leary or Chris
Tarrant, FHM will almost always feature a scantily-clad female. Many new
titles are taking the sex approach. For example, Stuff, Dennis
Publishing’s gadget magazine, is full of references to babes and
As the market matures, it will begin to segment and there is evidence
this is already beginning to happen. Conde Nast’s GQ spun off GQ Active,
IPC launched a men’s food magazine, Eat Soup, last September and Emap is
experimenting with a men’s fashion supplement.
In general, advertisers have welcomed with open arms the opportunity to
reach increasing numbers of affluent young men. As Stuart says: ’Emap is
building partnerships with advertisers targeting men as it has done with
women’s titles, by using reader offers and promotions.’
Despite this, Moloney believes some advertisers have responded too
’FHM and Loaded sell pretty much the same number of copies as Marie
Claire and Cosmo, yet they attract half the ad revenue. Advertisers need
to wake up and realise the opportunity,’ he says.
Most buyers agree there is plenty of growth left in this market. The
latest figures indicate that the entire men’s market is 50 per cent up
in circulation terms and it shows little sign of easing up. FHM’s
editor, Mike Soutar, is convinced his magazine can reach the million
mark. Over at Loaded, his counterpart, the maverick James Brown, is not
to be outdone: ’The frightening thing is when I do my next magazine,’ he
says. You have been warned.
THE LOADED STORY
April 94 Loaded launches. Liz Hurley appears in first ’Most Wanted’
feature and is soon photographed in ’that dress’. Circulation is
May 95 James Brown wins PPA Editor of the Year award
Aug 95 Overtakes GQ to become best-selling men’s monthly with an ABC of
Nov 95 Brown is Editors’ Editor of the Year at the British Society of
Magazine Editors awards
Jan 96 Breaks 200,000 circulation barrier
Feb 96 Brown takes a holiday. Tarka the otter edits for a month May 96
Wins PPA Magazine of the Year Oct 96 Breaks 300,000 circulation
Nov 96 James Brown wins second BSME Editor of the Year award
THE FHM STORY
1985 For Him Magazine launched by Tayvale Publishing. Distributed in
90 Launches quarterly on to newsstands. Sells under 50,000 copies
92 To ten issues a year
93 Name change: FHM
June 94 Bought by Emap Metro. Editor is Francis Cottam
July 94 Mike Soutar, ex-editor of Smash Hits, becomes editor
Feb 95 ABC figure of 80,000 for July-Dec 94
Sept 95 Frank Skinner is last male coverstar. Sales dive
Oct 95 100 sexiest women in the world supplement. Breaks 100,000
Apr 96 Gillian Anderson issue sells out in days May 96 Breaks the
Feb 97 FHM is best-selling men’s monthly.