My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 5 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Doing it for the lads

Feature of mine from today's Irish Independent

It may very well be a man’s world, but it’s certainly not a lad’s one, at least when it comes to men’s magazines. Sales of self-styled lads’ mags like Loaded and Maxim have plummeted by some 30 per cent since their peak in the mid-to-late 1990s, while the bottom (pun intended) also seems to have fallen out of the market for “boobs and bums” publications like Zoo and Nuts, which have been particularly hard-hit by the growth of the internet.

Taking their place is a new breed of man’s magazine, ones that target men in their late 20s and mid 30s who earn more, dress better, party harder and are better educated than ever before. Magazines such as GQ, Esquire (which has just been resized to slide comfortably into manbags across the land) and the recently-relaunched Arena have all tailored their content and style to appeal to the “urban cowboy who means business”, light years from the Loaded-era lad “who ought to know better”.

These magazines now take a more high-minded approach that favours style over sex, and that shys away from the once-dominant emphasis on booze and birds. The most recent issue of Arena, for example, is littered with adverts for designer sunglasses, titanium mobile phones and swanky flat-screen TVs, alongside articles on how to spend thousands on high class house parties and how the policies of the three main British political parties will affect this urban playboy.

Declan Leavy, men’s editor with Social and Personal magazine, explains that these magazines have changed simply because men’s tastes and interests are more varied and sophisticated than ever before.

“Men are much more likely to go into a shop and buy a magazine for the sole purpose of having a good read and finding out about the latest in travel, electronics, gadgets, fashion and even beauty,” Leavy says.

“I think as men we’ve on from the days of Loaded and FHM, which only cater to a certain reader, namely those solely interested in boobs and beer. The mature 21st century man is far more interested in reading about the latest sports car or luxury travel destination than reading about the most recent soap star that’s getting her breasts out for the lads!”

He continues: “Men are far more image conscious than they used to be, especially Irish men, and that is reflected in things like the appointment of a dedicated Men’s Editor for a lifestyle magazine like Social and Personal. But it’s not just fashion and beauty that dominates men’s magazines; travel, auto and electronics are also very popular areas with men.

“Of course, prosperity has a lot to do with greater magazine sales. Increased affluency means more disposable income to spend on luxury cars and holidays. We need to get our inspiration from somewhere and what better way to get inspiration and ideas than from magazines?”

Leavy also believes that advertising forces have dictated this shift. “Many believe that men are far more easily influenced than women,” he states. “This could explain why powerhouse brands like Dior, Boss, Gucci and Porsche all advertise heavily in men’s magazines. Perhaps they see us as an easy touch, much more gullible to the wonders of the latest skin treatment or designer threads.”

Michael O’Doherty, publisher of VIP magazine, agrees that advertising is the driving force behind the move towards the high end of the market by men’s monthlies. “Arena and Esquire have had to go upscale to attract advertising,” he explains. “Advertising is in the upper scale – you’ll see little or no adverts in Zoo and Nuts, for instance.”

But while the content of these magazines is now more chic than cheek, O’Doherty admits that these publications must retain some sex appeal in order to flourish. “Most of these men’s magazines have women on the cover,” he says. “Arena and GQ nearly always have female stars on their covers to draw in the FHM/Maxim reader. These mags have to make a buck, and you can do that with tabloid covers but sophisticated content.”

All of the magazines discussed so far are English publications, but publisher Kevin Kelly tried to conquer the domestic market with an Irish men’s magazine, entitled Himself, in the early Noughties. The publication lasted for nearly a year before folding.

“We didn’t get it right,” Kelly admits. “We almost had it. Our company got it right with women’s magazines like Image, but we couldn’t do it with men’s.
“The best thing about Himself was its title. That venture cost us a lot of money. Nobody in Ireland at present has the potential to create a quality men’s magazine.”

Michael O’Doherty is equally pessimistic about the chances of an Irish men’s monthly getting off the ground again. “The big problem, which is common in Irish publishing, is that English men’s mags sell here and inevitably it’d be compared to GQ for instance, which has huge production values. It’d rely so much on advertising and the numbers just aren’t there.

“I haven’t ruled out the idea of trying it some day, but it’s hard to see how money could be made from it. It’d be a huge risk.”

As for the men’s magazine that strikes the best balance between style and substance, O’Doherty says: “I’m not mad about the GQ and Arena style. It’s poncey, full of itself and self-consciously stylish.

“I would go for FHM above them all. It has no attitude about itself, looks great, knows what it does and does it well. It makes for a great toilet read and that’s what all men want in the end!”


UnaRocks said...

I really like Esquire. I generally find men's magazines a better read than the women's ones in the same genre, which are generally all about SHOES! BRITNEY! ORGASMS!

I guess unisex mags would be the best...

Declan Cashin said...

I think women's mags lately reek of "focus-group". For instance, Grazia, while a good magazine, seems almost cynically designed to just about appeal to just the right amount of people.

I'm all for the unisex mag - let's do it Una!