Tip of the iceberg

The cynics scoffed at the idea of men’s weekly lifestyle magazines when they launched earlier this year, but they’re not laughing now.

In January this year both IPC and EMAP launched men’s weekly magazines – Nuts and Zoo. Many were sceptical: was this a vain attempt by the UK’s biggest publishers to turn around a declining male lifestyle sector? Or was it an inspired punt on the growing maturity and confidence of men’s magazine buying habits?

Amid the extraordinary hype since the launches, one thing has become clear: men’s weeklies are selling. With EMAP claiming sales of at least 150,000 and IPC on the record as exceeding 200,000, a brand new market of fast approaching 400,000 copies each week has been created in the space of a few months.

Some people might find it hard to believe that this figure will continue to grow, or even be sustained, but this year has already seen another IPC magazine, Loaded, celebrate its tenth birthday. When Loaded launched, conventional publishing wisdom had it that men didn’t read lifestyle magazines. Loaded, and other men’s magazines, proved the doubters wrong. The men’s lifestyle sector is now selling almost 2 million copies a month.

Women’s interest magazines sell 493 million copies a year, while men’s lifestyle sells just 19 million (Audit Bureau of Circulations 2003). Looking at all magazine purchases, women out-purchase men by almost 4:1. And of these purchases, 66 per cent were of weeklies. So is there a psychological reason why this should be the case? Are women genetically programmed to read more magazines than men?

For the three years I have worked in magazine publishing, I’ve studied the market – and I don’t think so. Men read magazines in the same places as women: on the train; on coffee breaks; before bed and even on the toilet. There is no logical reason to suggest that given the opportunity, men won’t buy as many magazines as women.

But this is clearly not happening. And if there is a great hole in men’s reading habits, why have sales in the men’s monthly market plateaued in the past three years?

Perhaps it’s because there have been no innovative launches in the men’s market between 1995 and January 2004.

Speaking for IPC Ignite!, it’s clear that prior to the acquisition of IPC Media by Time Inc in 2001, our two previous parent companies – while being very diligent operators – were not focused on long-term investment. They had other, perfectly legitimate priorities.

The dynamic is a simple one. If more men are to buy more magazines, more frequently, magazines have to serve their needs in better ways. The successful launch of the men’s weeklies has proven this point.

As long as magazine publishers have the creativity, innovation, cash and commitment to develop new products, Zoo and Nuts could just be the tip of the iceberg. The difference between 19 million and 493 million copies a year is a lot of money to aim at as a media owner.

This is just the end of the beginning for men’s mags.

Niall McKinney is marketing director of IPC Ignite!

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