Men’s Magazine ABCs January – June 2016: Analysis

22 Aug, 2016, by Ben Blackler

The men’s sector, like the women’s, continues to see a steady decline overall: it’s suffered an overall YoY fall of 1.1% – steeper than the 0.5% seen across women’s titles – although PoP decline was 2.7% compared to the women’s sector’s significant 4.6%.


Distribution tactics are increasingly geared towards reaching affluent readers. Esquire, for example, created a new mailing list of the 1,000 most affluent respondents to its Big Watch Survey that was publicised across Hearst’s men’s titles, and both Esquire and GQ offer a subscription to Club Lloyds bank account holders as a benefit. 14,000 of GQ’s subscribers were sourced through this scheme.

Larger titles have been investing substantially in their web offerings. For example GQ and Esquire have been migrating onto more responsive mobile-first platforms and launching GQ Video with Conde Nast’s specialized new video team. While this coincides with a circulation decline – of 2.1% in print and 8.9% in digital YoY – there is an emphasis on uniting the magazine with the website to forge a more seamless brand experience. Men’s Health will pursue a similar strategy by introducing a digital membership unlocked by buying the printed magazine. This was tested in the Jan/Feb issue, which provided readers with a code that unlocked a twelve-week training platform published behind a wall online.

It isn’t only digital platforms leading diversification outside of print. Men’s Health launched a range of vitamin supplements in 2015 and a protein-heavy frozen meal line in April this year; Esquire will be launching a high-end event space, Esquire Townhouse, in October.  And, despite its circulation drop, Monocle has been focusing on radio shows, city guides, and luxury product collaborations.

This is symptomatic of a larger realisation that, in the midst of the print market’s downward trajectory, media brands need to continue to grow their offering beyond the printed page. Although it remains the biggest paid-for magazine in the men’s sector, Men’s Health has suffered a circulation drop of 7.5% PoP, and GQ has fallen 2.5%. Brand expansion through new product launches seem to be an effort to combat this struggle.

Free titles such as Shortlist, Square Mile and Sport are maintaining their distribution figures across the sector, with no fluctuations exceeding 1%. Shortlist continues to hold the highest circulation across all sectors, offering mass appeal and a blanket distribution approach. Publications such as Square Mile, however, are attempting to offer targeted access to an affluent market while remaining free. This is something that larger brands seem to be adopting as a strategy.

Esquire has seen an impressive circulation uplift of 10.3% YoY, with 80% of these being bulks. Although this certainly shows the uplift in a less positive light, many of these bulks can be attributed to the new targeted distribution tactics detailed above, which strive to capture assuredly wealthy readers. Conversely, WIRED’s approach is to clean up its distribution tactics in order to focus on engaged newsstand consumers: although seeing only a small YoY circulation uplift of 1.9%, its bulks have reduced by over 14% YoY.

The general trend for men’s titles is to temper the overall decline of print by expanding their brand into other avenues. There is also a focus on finding targeted distribution channels beyond the newsstand, which is no longer viable to ensure the survival of most titles.