KEEPING FIT AND HEALTHY: Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness have been locked in a battle for the hearts and six packs of America’s jocks for more than 20 years. The arms race was shaken up last November when Maria Rodale pushed out David Zinczenko from Men’s Health, her company’s biggest magazine and his home for 20 years, 12 as editor in chief. In February, Zinczenko, through his new consulting company, became contributing editorial director at American Media Inc., which had an eye towards Zinc-ethizing its own Men’s Fitness. A redesigned Men’s Fitness appeared in June, the same month Men’s Health unveiled one of its own.

Through September, Health and Fitness carried a similar number of advertising pages, 581 to 580, but Health had the fatter business, $121 million in revenue to $45 million, according to Publishers Information Bureau, tabulating revenues based on published (rather than actual) ad page rates. Like the rest of the men’s magazines, both grew year-to-year. As for circulation, in the first half, Health notched 1.9 million readers, down nearly 2 percent, to Fitness’ 583,000, which fell 0.3 percent, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. The figures include digital replica sales.

This story first appeared in the October 11, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

As for their respective redesigned June issues, Fitness sold 106,000 copies at newsstand, 9 percent above the six-month average, while Health’s fell 12 percent below the average, to 304,000 copies.

Rodale and Zinczenko say they’ve moved on from dissolution of their decades-long partnership and no longer see the two magazines as competitors, bristling at comparisons.

“We’re having the best year we’ve ever had since [Zinczenko] left, so we’re not suffering one bit,” Rodale, the chief executive officer and chairwoman of her family’s company, said Wednesday at a party for Men’s Health’s 25th anniversary, which was, like most magazine anniversaries, an advertising ploy — its first test copies were published in 1986, so it’s actually 27.

Rodale attributed the magazine’s longevity to its founding formula, which still applies today, not any one editor in chief.

“When we first started the idea to launch the magazine, everybody said, ‘Men don’t care about their health.’ What we were able to do was to really talk to men in a way that was funny and talk about the things that are important to them, which is sex and abs. Lo and behold, it took off,” she said.

Even as Fitness is re-branding as a lifestyle brand, Rodale said Health already pursues luxury and fashion advertisers.

“The only difference between our magazines is quality. We’re all about quality and authenticity and truth,” she said.

Zinczenko has made several moves to reassert Fitness’ profile among men’s magazines. The June redesign emphasized lifestyle over six packs and was followed in July by the appointment of John Rasmus, a National Magazine Award-winning editor, as consulting editor in chief. Next year, the re-branding effort will continue when Zinczenko introduces style and fitness sections in March and September to strengthen the pitch to men’s fashion and grooming advertisers. Fitness had not previously tapped forcefully the fashion and luxury sector.

“When I came to the magazine I asked what fashion they had and they told me Dr. Scholls,” said publisher Patrick Connors, a former associate publisher at Glamour who joined in November. Connors said they’ve since broken Buffalo and Lee jeans, and are in talks with PVH Corp., which owns Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein. As a show of confidence to advertisers, Fitness is increasing its rate base in January by 50,000 to 600,000.

Zinczenko said he now sees as his competition other lifestyle magazines, not Men’s Health.

“[Health] is sort of in the rearview mirror by now,” he said. “My sights are set on GQ, Best Life [also from Rodale] and Esquire. I’m not sure that health is a lifestyle in the way that fitness is. We want to hang out with guys who care about their fitness not guys who care about their health.”

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