Redesign gives new life to men's magazines

A glimmer of hope shone through in the men’s sector, with two titles proving that a well-thought-out redesign can turn things around.

The results of Esquire’s award-winning redesign under new editor Jeremy Langmead were clear, with the title posting a 14 per cent rise year on year to 59,800. Langmead, who previously edited Wallpaper* and claimed he hadn’t been reading men’s magazines, set about creating a title for ‘newspaper-reading men”.

Natmag’s investment in the marketing of the new-look title incorporated this idea, with advertising running in the national press, as well as subscriptions pushed at a discount rate.

Although Bauer Consumer Media’s men’s monthly FHM may have seen a 15.1 per cent year-on-year decline, the results of its ‘grown-up’new look, launched last autumn, were seen in its 1.1 per cent rise period on period – the first in six periods. Managing director of Men’s Lifestyle at BCM, Rob Munro-Hall, said that the repositioning of the magazine so that it was no longer chasing the weeklies had already paid off.

Stablemate Arena has yet to see the effect of its ‘high-fashion’new look under former Sunday Times writer Giles Hattersley, which was unveiled three months ago. The title’s circulation dropped 27 per cent year on year, but Munro-Hall claimed that the new-look issues had seen a rise.

‘The figures are a disappointment but I think they have to be seen in the context of how some of the other men’s titles have performed,’said Munro-Hall, who also quashed rumours that the magazine would be sold.

Worst hit in the sector was Dennis’s Maxim, down 40.3 per cent to 78,463 – partly due to the title being disallowed from exporting after the sale of Dennis’s US arm, which included the Maxim International title.

New editor Michael Donlevy is putting his confidence in the new-look Maxim, unveiled this month, which follows closely in the footsteps of FHM away from competing with the flesh-loving weeklies, Nuts and Zoo. Among these, IPC’s Nuts maintained its lead – it was down 8.5 per cent year on year to 270,000, compared to Zoo’s12.5 per cent drop to 179,000.

Loaded, the last monthly on the newsstand to keep a high-breast count, had another disappointing year-on-year decline of 29.9 per cent. IPC Ignite publishing director Jo Smalley insisted that the period-on-period drop of 4.5 was cause for optimism.

GQ editor Dylan Jones claimed that his high-end title and Natmag’s Men’s Health were the real winners. Despite dumping a hefty percentage of its bulks (from 6852 to 1210), GQ had still seen a 1.6 per cent year-on-year increase. Men’s Health posted its 12th consecutive year-on-year increase of 240,315. 

‘I think that [mainstream] sector of the men’s market is in terminal decline,’said Jones. ‘The only two magazines to put on serious figures are GQ and Men’s Health and that’s because we offer very particular types of content. You’re either a downmarket lads’ mag like FHM and Zoo, or you’re a copycat title like Esquire.”

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