MAGAZINE ABCs: Loaded drops 26.3% as men's lifestyle freefalls

The men's lifestyle sector has taken a hammering in the first six months of the year, with former lad's mag daddy, Loaded, down 26.3% year on year and 24.8% during the period, according to ABC figures released today.

Loaded: circulation falls to 53,591 copies
Loaded: circulation falls to 53,591 copies

The IPC Media title has dipped from a circulation figure of 71,251 copies, to 53,591 copies. It leads a devastating six months for the sector, which has been heavily hit by the impact of the recession on male reading habits, but is by no means the only casualty.

Andy Taylor, head of magazines at Carat, is not shocked by the results for Loaded as he thinks the market has shifted away from the title.

He said: "Out of all the titles, Loaded’s market is really coming to an end. I think we all used to read it when we all enjoyed reading a lad’s mag, but the culture has shifted away from that.

"What with the relatively steady performance of some of the magazines focused towards the older male, I think the days of the lad’s mag are over. I really think out of all the magazines in the men’s lifestyle sector, Loaded is really in that saloon called ‘last chance’.

"I just don’t think that there is the desire, or need or thirst for the titles in the men’s weekly market anymore, and I think consumers are now focusing on titles they can read, not just look at. I really do think that this market is coming to an end."

Jo Smalley, publishing director for Loaded and Nuts, said: "I have no intention of shutting down Loaded, and I don’t think anyone else at IPC does.

"There is no doubt that the ABC figures are an indication of a brand’s performance, but the print product is not the only way to reach your target audience, and we are seeing tremendous growth in our readers accessing Loaded through online channels, and the agencies are reacting positively to that.

"We had a refresh of the brand in January, and some things have worked, and we’ll admit that some things haven’t. We may have been through a rough time, but we are definitely turning the corner."

Both the highly-heralded weeklies Bauer Consumer Media’s Zoo and IPC Media’s Nuts, have also dipped by double figures, with Zoo freefalling 27.9% year on year and 21.6% in the year until June, and Nuts dropping 22% on last year’s figure and 16.8% during the six-month period.

Zoo dipped by more than 20,000 copies during the six months to June, down to 80,026 copies from 102,043, and by more than 30,000 year on year from 111,012 copies.

During the six months to June, Nuts fell by nearly 30,000 copies down to 147,134 from 176,835 at the beginning of the year, and from 188,532 in June last year.

Geoff Campbell, managing director of Zoo, said: "In a challenging market, Zoo continues to attract young men seeking a fast, funny and topical read, and delivers good value to advertisers with its innovative 3D issue and World Cup promotions."

Bauer’s FHM also failed to arrest a continual decline, dipping below the 200,000 copy mark, with a circulation of 192,586 copies. This was a dive from 235,027 copies last year and 231,235 copies at the beginning of the year. The title lost 18.1% on its circulation year on year and 16.7% in the first six months of the year.

Campbell, also managing director of FHM, said: "The FHM brand is still in rude health with a website visited by 1.2 million men each month, 25 international editions spanning the globe, and a TV series launching in the Autumn, 'FHM Stand-Up Hero'."

Some of the titles that media agency press departments had written off during the last set of ABCs, did not fair as badly as predicted, as the National Magazine Company’s Esquire only dropped by 1.7% period on period and was up a market-beating 10.3% on the year. The title now has a circulation of 58,151, surpassing Loaded, a circulation that has increased from 52,705 copies last year, but has slightly dipped from 59,160 at the turn of the year.

Under new owners Kane, Front magazine slipped slightly by 2.3% from 41,946 to 40,971 copies during the last six months, but was up 7.8% on 38,002 copies in 2009.

Condé Nast dodged the circulation decline bullet as upmarket men’s lifestyle magazine GQ remained steady, increasing six copies during the first six months, from 120,057 copies to 120,063, and 44 copies year on year from 120,019.

The other Condé Nast magazine within the men’s lifestyle sector, the much-féted Wired, increased a modest 3.6% in a difficult market from 48,275 at the beginning of the year, to 50,009 copies for the period until June. The publisher had set a 50,000 target for the title for its first year.

Health-based titles either stabilised or increased, with Natmag Rodale’s Men’s Health only recording a 1.9% decline, dropping from 250,577 copies on the cusp of the year, to 245,754 copies in June. The magazine was also down 1.8% year on year from 25,247 copies.

Dennis Publishing’s Men’s Fitness faired slightly better, up 0.1% during the six- month period from 68,037 copies at the beginning of the year, to 68,123. The magazine was up 0.2% year on year from 67,987 during mid-2009.

However, specialist titles did not escape scrutiny from the men’s lifestyle audience, as Haymarket Consumer Media title Stuff recorded a double-digit drop of 10.8% during the first six months of the year, falling from a high of 95,695 copies to 85,370. However, the title was up 1% year on year from 84.565 copies.

Martyn Jones, publishing director of Stuff, said: "We are delighted with year-on-year growth in what remains a challenging market for publishers. Stuff’s performance is testament to a confident editorial product and continued investment in innovation and improvement. 

"As the technology sector becomes more mainstream, Stuff is well positioned to extend its market leadership into 2011 and beyond."

Amy King, deputy head of press at MPG Media Contacts, said: "This is not the end of the men’s market, let’s get that clear, but I do think that the publishers do need to look at which direction they are going in the near future.

"There could be an argument for backing away from generalist and focusing on more specialist content such as magazines like Top Gear or Wired, that haven’t had such a bad set of ABC figures.

"I think that we do need to look at what the publishers are doing to address the slide, for instance the recent research that Bauer is doing with its 4D man research. I think initiatives like this show that publishers are really looking seriously at arresting the decline."

In the men’s sector, the only magazine with free distribution, ShortList, saw growth of 1% during the first six months of the year to 518,222, from 513,148 at the turn of the year and 510,720 in June last year.
 
Eves Samuel-Camps, head of press at Universal McCann, said Shortlist had hit on the right formula and was stealing a march on the traditional men’s lifestyle market.

She said: "Shortlist definitely hit the market at the right time and the audience was looking for a free magazine that would fit that mould, and advertisers are reacting to the product.

"As for the lad’s mags, I think they’ve had their day. I think the sector is definitely looking tired. I think we were all excited when the likes of Zoo and Nuts appeared, but it turned out that these magazines didn’t have the same hold and loyalty as those in the women’s weekly market.
 
"Frankly, a lot of guys don’t want to be seen with these titles anymore, and the fact that publishers are using the multi-platform audience excuse reflects that.

"It’s too bold to say that’s it, the [lad’s mag] party is over, but it’s getting closer."

The Top 15 Men's Magazines
  Title Publisher Jan-Jun 2010 Prd/prd change Yr/yr change
1 Shortlist*  Shortlist Media 518,222 1.0% 1.5%
2 Sport  UTV Media Ltd 305,479 -0.3% 0.0%
3 Men's Health  Natmag Rodale 245,754 -1.9% -1.8%
4 FHM  Bauer Media 192,586 -16.7% -18.1%
5 Nuts  IPC 147,134 -16.8% -22.0%
6 GQ  Conde Nast 120,063 0.0% 0.0%
8 Stuff  Haymarket 85,370 -10.8% 1.0%
7 Zoo  Bauer Media 80,026 -21.6% -27.9%
9 BBC Focus  BBC Worldwide 73,614 2.6% 8.0%
10 Men's Fitness  Dennis Publishing 68,123 0.1% 0.2%
11 Esquire  NatMag 58,151 -1.7% 10.3%
12 Healthy for Men  River Publishing 56,356 9.7% -15.6%
13 Loaded  IPC 53,591 -24.8% -26.3%
14 Wired  Conde Nast 50,009 3.6% N/A
15 Front Magazine  Kane Ltd 40,971 -2.3% 7.8%
*Free title

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