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November 17, 2015

How digital media and changes in society killed off the UK lads’ mags

By Dominic Ponsford

The planned closure of FHM and Zoo magazines ends an era of journalism which began in 1994 with the launch of Loaded.

At the best lads' mags provided a forum for gonzo-style journalism which evoked the anarchic spirit of Hunter S Thompson. But at their worst, they were little more than soft porn and crass entertainment for emotionally under-developed males.

The demise of the lads’ mags shows what a volatile place magazine journalism is to work in. Whereas national newspaper brands last centuries and somehow have survived everything the economy and the internet can throw at them, magazine readers are a more fickle bunch.

Lads’ mags have become victims of the fact that much of the more racy content they provided is now freely available to young men from other new online sources. But they have also suffered because their readers changed.

The top-selling magazine in the UK men’s sector today Men’s Health, shifting nearly 200,000 copies a month. Young men are, it seems, nowadays more interested in creating six-pack stomachs than downing six-packs of beer.

The men’s magazine market is nowhere near as strong as it once was, but it is very far from being a dead loss.

Free titles Shortlist (providing a mixture of entertainment, technology, fashion and lifestyle content) and Sport are both thriving – with weekly distributions of around 500,000 and 300,000 respectively.

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And new launch Forever Sports has bucked the trend as a successful paid-for title (selling around 60,000 copies a month) thanks to its distribution partnership with Sports Direct.

Here’s what men’s mags were selling in 2005, and how the same titles fare today:

  • FHM: 560,167 – current ABC of 72,180, set to close at the end of the year
  • Nuts: 304,751 – fell to just over 50,000 a week before closing in April 2014
  • Zoo: 260,317 – fell to 27,644 sales a week, set to close at the end of the year
  • Loaded: 237,083 – fell to sales of around 10,000 a month before closing in April this year
  • Men’s Health: 228,108 – current ABC 193,901
  • Maxim: 227,377 – closed in 2009
  • GQ: 125,050 – current ABC 121,085
  • Front: 88,154 – print edition closed in February 2014
  • Esquire: 63,605 – current ABC of 56,499
  • Arena: 46,680 – closed in 2009.

(Picture: Shutterstock)

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