The new annual circulation figures appear to show the men's magazines locked in terminal decline. Loaded is down 29% year on year, FHM down 15%, Maxim down 40%. It's hard to know whether to mourn the passing of an old friend or rejoice in the fact that the sector's relentless dash down-market doesn't appear to have worked. Even the weekly titles which started off down-market are in freefall - Nuts down 8.5% and Zoo down 12.5%.
The reason is that the 'entertainment' to be found in the average lads mag can now be found online - cheaper, easier to access and done better. Publishers have been so wowed by the web that they've tried to imitate it in print and have lost sight of what's unique and great about magazines. No surprise that the only lads mag to buck the trend is Esquire which has gone up 14%. And this is a mag currently without a website. Yes, they're two different media.
But I think there's a lesson in these ABC figures for any publisher with the brains and the balls to act upon it. Both Men's Health and Men's Fitness are also showing circulation figures slightly up year on year. Now neither of these mags exactly has the editorial style of malehealth and we've certainly been critical of most of the lads mags in the past but we do share the basic interest of Men's Health and Men's Fitness in men's well-being. And, lo and behold, it looks like men do too.
So here's a suggestion for the men's magazines: write about what men are interested in and if that includes health - why not? The world's changing, boys.