The Top 100 Magazines: Men's lifestyle

The latest results in the men's magazine sector make for less dramatic reading than in previous periods. The male audience and its tastes have changed dramatically over the past decade and certain titles now appear to be hitting the right mark with their responses.

Free weeklies, such as ShortList and Sport, have helped the market post a 27.1 per cent period increase across the board and, with the exception of three titles, drops in circulation have not gone into double figures.

ShortList may have fallen short of its initial 500,000 circulation target, but its 462,731 combined with Sport's 317,209 copies, more people are getting a weekly fix of male content.

Mike Soutar, the chief executive of ShortList Media, says: "We're really pleased. This backs up our hunch that there was a major opportunity to create a magazine that readers would be happy to read in public and advertisers are benefiting from this editorial environment."

The effects of ShortList and Sport have not been as devastating as some had predicted on paid-for weeklies, such as Bauer Consumer Media's Zoo and IPC's Nuts. However, they both showed declines in circulation.

There is a wider diversity of results in the monthlies. A relaunched FHM under the editor, Anthony Noguera, appears to have paid dividends. After entering circulation freefall, this decline was stemmed in the last six months of 2007 with a small period-on-period increase.

Marcus Rich, the managing director of Bauer London Lifestyle, puts this down to intelligent repositioning. He says: "Many monthlies have tried to compete directly with the price and frequency of weeklies rather than think strategically about their positioning. The relaunch of FHM has tidied it up, positioning it into mid-market as a useful book for young men rather than just about glamour girls."

However, the decline of Arena continued apace. The title lost more than a quarter of its sales over 2007, a fact that will do little to diminish speculation that it will soon be closed by its new owner, a charge that the publisher vehemently denies.

There were other predictable casualties. Dennis' Maxim is among the hardest hit, and now sells below 80,000 copies. Dennis maintains that part of this is down to the decision to take out US circulation from its UK figure.

Further proof that the lads' generation from the late 90s has grown up and demands more sober content comes from the steady and continued rise of Men's Health and Men's Fitness.

Similarly, when Jeremy Langmead took the helm at The National Magazine Company's Esquire last year, he promised a more upmarket publication that would attract the most elite of advertisers and take the sword to an area owned by GQ. Both the publisher and the editor can take heart from the latest figures, that show a double-digit increase period on period boosted more by a growing base of loyal subscribers.

But there is still work to do. Even with Esquire on its tail, GQ is still moving more than double the amount of copies of its rival - something its editor, Dylan Jones, can be proud of.

That's not to say that there's no place for girls, gadgets and pub jokes. Monkey, the Dennis digital title, posted a 10.7 per cent rise in its ABCe figure.

Meanwhile, IPC Media's Loaded seems to have slowed its decline in the second half of 2007. Eric Fuller, the managing director of IPC ignite! is sticking to his guns, describing the title as a "funny, irreverent antidote" to the increasingly sober competitors.

"The men's market is about a process of constant refinement. With the right content, cover girls and editorial, we have weathered the shake-up of the market and it is now beginning to flatten out."

Verdict Men's monthlies will continue to push themselves towards an upmarket core readership. Digital will own content that lads' mags did in the 90s. Paid-for weeklies will fight their own battle, while the actual significance of the freesheets will become clearer in the next set of results.

Title Publisher Total ABC Period-on- Year-on-
period year
% change % change
ShortList* ShortList Media 462,731 n/a n/a
Sport* Sport Media &
Strategy 317,209 0.0 n/a
FHM Bauer Consumer
Media 315,149 1.1 -15.1
Nuts* IPC 270,053 -2.6 -8.5
Men's Health NatMag Rodale 240,315 0.6 0.7
Zoo* Bauer Consumer
Media 179,006 -4.1 -12.5
GQ Conde Nast 129,520 1.3 1.6
Loaded IPC 115,065 -4.5 -29.2
Stuff Haymarket 96,866 4.4 -3.4
Maxim Dennis Publishing 78,463 -27.1 -40.3
Men's Fitness Dennis Publishing 65,504 0.2 0.6
BBC Focus BBC Magazines 65,301 6.2 10.1
T3 Future 60,028 n/a 8.4
Esquire NatMags 59,800 11.7 14.0
Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations, July-December 2007 * weekly.