INSIDE THE MEN’S CLUB
Byline: Stan Williams
NEW YORK — The cold spell hasn’t quite snapped for men’s magazines.
Several new titles, all less than six years old, are categorizing readers by age, hobby or sexual preference and, in turn, are chipping away at some of the more established players.
Of the magazines that feature men’s fashion and advertising, results through April show that the non-establishment is growing fastest in ad pages: Out is up 24.8 percent, Men’s Health is up 19 percent and Vibe gained 10.2 percent, according to Media Industry Newsletter and the publishers.
The once-torrid Details has been cooling off, showing a year-to-date ad page decline of 3.8 percent, according to MIN.
Meanwhile, the pack’s dominant male, GQ, experienced flat results year-to-date, while its chief rival, Esquire, is in a real slump, reporting a 23.1 percent decline in ad pages through April.
“Since Ed Kosner [editor-in-chief] went there, it’s been all about making the book a general interest magazine, and everyone really wonders what it’s all about,” observed Roberta Garfinkle, senior vice president of print media at McCann Erickson Worldwide.
According to Garfinkle, men simply don’t read general interest multi-topic lifestyle magazines — they’d prefer specific topic publications that cater to their hobbies, such as Car & Driver, Boating or Sports Illustrated.
That’s wrong, said Larry Burstein, publisher of Esquire, who pointed to his publication’s circulation of 700,000 as evidence men do read general interest magazines.
“And with the last three issues and the new design coming on board, newsstand sales are up 20 percent,” Burstein claimed, noting that ad page sales should follow, with a beefed up sales staff that will include a new director of fashion merchandising and a shakeup of the magazine’s fashion staff.
Meanwhile, GQ said it has an equally aggressive strategy. In fact, its new publisher, Richard Beckman, formerly of Conde Nast Traveler, has a nickname in the industry: “Mad Dog.”
Steve Klein, media director and managing partner at Kirshenbaum, Bond & Partners, a New York ad agency, said Beckman’s nickname fits “since he is fiercely competitive and takes his business very seriously. He likes to win and he really made things work for Conde Nast Traveler.”
GQ has already started to see ad pages increase over the last two months, and Beckman insisted that more growth is imminent, with May numbers that “are just OK, June that should be good, and July huge — the largest July issue in the magazine’s history.”
Playboy, meanwhile, is showing the faintest signs of life, with an uptick in April’s ad pages by 12.9 percent and a 1.8 percent gain year-to-date. This, however, follows a long and very public decline.
But the magazine has an enormous circulation: 3.2 million.
“I just mentioned Playboy for the first time in years to a client,” said Sam Shahid, owner of Shahid & Co., an ad agency here. “We haven’t thought about it in a long time, but it’s just so hip, right now, sort of like Hush Puppies. I think it’s really making a comeback.”
As for Details, analysts say the magazine just isn’t as hot as it once was.
“It’s not that Details isn’t strong, it just that its circulation [of 483,200 in 1995] is pretty much tapped out,” said Martin Walker, chairman of Walker Communications, a magazine consulting firm here. “Details’ reader is in his early 20s, and once he gets older, he goes on to a magazine like GQ or Men’s Health.”
“Yes, business has been really tough,” admitted Gina Sanders, Details publisher, “but we expect to see a great deal of growth out there in both fashion and in other categories.” She pointed to technology as a hot category.
While some critics said the magazine’s editorial and advertising is schizophrenic — the advertising skewing to the high end and the editorial to the penniless college set — Sanders disagreed. She said that the magazine is targeting a young man of a median age of 26, who’s single, professional and makes $46,000.
And many advertisers continue to be drawn to Details.
“We advertise tailored clothing with Details,” said Pat Durkin, vice president of advertising at Tommy Hilfiger. “While a traditional tailored suit might really be for an older guy, we also know that the Details reader is also a Hilfiger customer. We might, however, do a softer suit, since we try sometimes to tailor our advertising with the editorial.” Despite recent turmoil, Out magazine is also continuing to make inroads with fashion advertisers.
While Walker said you can’t “mention Out magazine in the same breath as GQ or Esquire,” it has continued to lure the prestige fashion advertisers, such as CK Jeans, DKNY, Diesel and Dolce & Gabbana.
Out carried 301.64 ad pages through April 1996.
“We’ve been very lucky,” said Harry Taylor, Out’s publisher. “We’ve grown steadily, category by category.” And circulation is growing, though still tiny by most standards. The magazine had audited paid circulation of about 119,000 during the last six months of 1995, representing a 38.6 percent jump over the previous year.
Without sexually explicit ads and racy stories about people’s private lives, Out, said Frank Smith, Young & Rubicam’s vice president, group supervisor, is the most mainstream of all gay publications. “It’s really the only gay publication I feel comfortable with to recommend to my clients who want to market to the gay audience,” he said.
Men’s Health is another focused magazine to watch, according to Y&R’s Smith. The magazine has a circulation of about 1.3 million, according to ABC, and continues to increase its ad pages steadily, as well as increase its fashion emphasis.
While Jeffrey Morgan, publisher, admitted the market has been tough, Men’s Health has been aggressive in getting its name to the readers, via in-store promotions and through advertising to the trade in a variety of media. John Rollins, publisher of Vibe, said that while the magazine is certainly considered hip, it’s been a tough sell. “I think we’ve finally seen the floor. Things will not get worse; getting advertising during the first issues [of this year] was like pulling teeth.” Men’s Journal, published by Wenner Media, has also had a tough year, with year-to-date ad pages down by almost 20 percent. Still, media buyers say it’s a magazine to watch, since it combines good literary pieces with subjects such as sports, fitness and fashion. “It’s great to read,” said Kirshenbaum & Bond’s Klein. “It’s just a matter whether Jann [Wenner, chairman of Wenner] will continue to put money into the magazine.”
Another Wenner property, Rolling Stone, was down almost 10 percent in ad pages. Fashion accounts for 25 to 30 percent of Rolling Stone’s ads, and associate publisher Kevin O’Malley said he expects a jump in the second half, especially in tailored clothing.
“We’re seeing a shift overall to the upper-end,” he said, pointing to a recent multi-page advertising exclusive from Versace featuring music artists such as Madonna, Jon Bon Jovi and the performer previously known as Prince. “We’re starting to see the convergence of fashion and music happen in a real significant way.”