HOTDOG AT THE MOVIES
Byline: James Fallon
LONDON — It’s time for the lads to grow up.
That’s the feeling of James Brown, founder of the original lad mag Loaded and former editor of British GQ. Brown, 34, was sacked from GQ last year after running a feature that named Erwin Rommel as one of the century’s best-dressed men.
He’s now founded his own publishing company, I Feel Good, which has raised $15.2 million from a listing on London’s Alternative Investment Market as well as from Felix Dennis, founder of Dennis Publishing — publisher of Maxim magazine — and Chris Akers, former chairman of the Leeds Football Club holding company. Both are nonexecutive directors, while Brown is chief executive and editor in chief.
Their plan is to launch three magazines over the next 18 months in the film, sports and lifestyle areas. The first is Hotdog, a film/lifestyle magazine that made its debut in the U.K. last month. It’s mainly aimed at the men’s market, although Brown said he expects about 20 to 30 percent of readers to be women. Hotdog’s first-year circulation target is 50,000 to 60,000.
“Hotdog has a specific feel now of being only about the movies, but it will grow into a mainstream title,” Brown said. “This issue has even more style and fashion. For instance, there’s a feature on 25 things you must buy from the movies, such as Nicolas Cage’s snakeskin jacket from ‘Wild at Heart.’
“It’s about putting a different spin on the movies rather than just looking at the latest releases,” he added. “You can already get that in other magazines, but you can’t get a story on the fashion in ‘Goodfellas,’ which is what we just interviewed Paul Smith about.”
Hotdog has the same irreverent attitude Brown brought to Loaded and GQ. There are the normal reviews of the latest releases and interviews with such stars as Cameron Diaz, Chris Rock and Traci Lords, but also features on the making of “Carlito’s Way” and a definitive guide to Bruce Willis, including a line drawing showing each of the injuries he sustained in the “Die Hard” trilogy. There’s also a banded supplement, Hotdog Pinups.
But the magazine faces stiff competition in the movie market from existing titles such as Bristish media group EMAP’s Empire as well as from the weekly titles Heat and Time Out. The movie magazine sector also is undergoing a shakeout, with the British version of Premiere recently closing. But Brown believes Hotdog eventually will find its market, thanks to his emphasis on fashion and style as well as acting. He’s already made inroads into the sectors in advertising, with companies such as Paul Smith, Tag Heuer, Renault, Chrysalis Records and Vodafone taking pages in the first two issues. A full-page color ad costs $8,360.
“We want to do fashion shoots within Hotdog and do twice-a-year fashion supplements. We want to bring the sense and energy of a broader men’s lifestyle,” Brown said.
Brown is coy about what his next two launches will be, simply saying one will be a specialist title and the other will be more mainstream. Both will be aimed mainly at men, he said, “although I’m constantly approached by women about doing a women’s magazine with the same attitude as Loaded. If we do well setting up the men’s titles, then I’ll probably take a crack at it.”
The one thing he won’t be doing is a new Loaded. Despite the growth of Maxim in the U.S. and the introduction of an American version of the British FHM, there are signs the men’s magazine market in the U.K. is slipping. Loaded’s circulation fell 18.8 percent last year to 371,548, according to the British Audit Bureau of Circulation, while FHM’s declined 6.5 percent to 702,514 and Maxim’s dropped 2.1 percent to 315,102. The only men’s magazine to register growth last year was British GQ, where circulation rose 7.5 percent to 142,162 — ironically, under Brown’s stewardship.
He’s careful not to criticize his former employers at Conde Nast (a unit of Advance Publications, parent of Fairchild Publications) and also not to take aim at his former baby, Loaded. But it’s clear he feels that young men are headed in a new direction.
“Loaded was about life in the mid-20s and GQ was about having been successful at Loaded and having the money to do things,” Brown said. “But I think English guys have been over-stimulated now. I need to take some time off from all that.”