For the last couple of ABC releases there has been a lot of doom and gloom, in particular for the men’s lifestyle sector, and unfortunately it isn’t looking good yet again. The market was down 4.4% overall on this time last year and the more premium leading titles were also badly hit.
Starting off with the worst of the injured, at the lower end of the market we saw Bauer-owned Zoo and IPC’s Nuts dropping respectively 32% to an average circulation of 54,318, and 22% to 114,019. With Nuts recent re-launch not being truly reflected in this recent circulation audit there is hope that next period will see a retrenchment, but this is a very optimistic point of view.
FHM took another considerable drop this period with a 19.2% decline, taking the circulation down to a very meagre 155,557. There is a lot of pressure on the incoming editor Joe Barnes, previously of Front magazine, to turn round the fortunes of this once very successful magazine.
Clinging onto the top spot for the biggest selling men’s magazine in the UK is Men’s Health. Unfortunately it does seem that they are losing their way slightly. The magazine has previously bridged the gap between health and fashion very successfully, but it was clear in the SS11 Guide to Style in Men’s Health that their fashion offering was somewhat lacking. Even though the AW11 Guide to Style was an improvement there is still a severe lack of any top international fashion advertisers. It is therefore not surprising that they have seen an 11% loss year on year bringing them down to a circulation of only 218,368 a month. A depressing circulation when compared to the highest selling women’s lifestyle magazines which are currently circulating at double this.
There were rays of light for the remainder of the men’s lifestyle publishers in the health sector, indicating that men’s interest in health and fitness continues to grow. Dennis Publishing owned Men’s Fitness reported a year-on-year circulation uplift of 1.7% up to 69,264, while River Publishing’s Healthy for Men was up 7.4% to 60,499.
The two leading upmarket men’s titles, GQ and Esquire, didn’t experience major moves either way. The ‘metrosexuals’ out there are holding this market up with their unwavering need for a monthly intake of high-end culture and fashion. Keep your eyes peeled though as it will definitely be interesting to see how Esquire will fare in the next ABC’s following its re-vamp in June, which many thought took the title to a more accessible, mass level.
Stealing the show once again were the free titles, or ‘freemiums’ as they are now called. ShortList and Sport both continued to see a positive year-on-year increase. With ShortList recording a distribution of 523,665. The freemiums are really holding their own in this sector and are becoming a very effective way of reaching a male audience through print.
It is worth mentioning the effect of the rise of the tablet and mobile device, especially in the context of men’s lifestyle publications. There are a handful of titles which are already taking the first steps into the world of digital editions. Although the initial auditing base is still very small, evidence from the US does show that the packaging of print and digital access subscriptions is starting to make a difference to men’s reading habits as more and more turn to tablet devices for their reading consumption. This is where the UK market is possibly missing out – just take a look next time you are on the tube to see how many men are actually reading from a tablet or mobile in comparison to print.
So, with some titles posting double digit declines in the men’s lifestyle sector the inevitable question is whether this is the end for the paid for ‘lads mags’? The future, we predict, will see a long life for the ‘freemium’ magazines and a strong shift into digital for the traditional paid for magazines.