I grew up around the time ‘lads mags’ such as Loaded, FHM and Maxim were peaking in terms of launches and print circulation, immediately prior to the rise of the internet. And working in the industry, including a brief period advising the FHM team, I’ve paid attention to the massive decline for the weekly titles such as Zoo and Nuts, and the monthlies such as FHM, which in recent times have seen losses of 32% (Zoo), 22.5% (Nuts), FHM (19.5%) as reported in the ABC figures in August 2011.
At the same time, Nuts is apparently the most popular Men’s Lifestyle website, according to Hitwise, with FHM and Zoo also in the top ten.
So is it that their audience is simply transferring to their websites, and have they cannibalised their audience?
Without access to their analytics, surveys and research it’s impossible to say for sure, but I don’t think so.
I think the fact is that most men aren’t contained within the ‘men’s lifestyle’ category for websites.
Where did the male readers go?
The main magazines in this segment have always covered a range of areas, packaged up with some titillating shots of a current celebrity, and the problem is that doesn’t work anymore.
There are a range of sites catering for those in search of bare flesh and celebrities, from adult sites to Youtube to small spam blogs, and all of them are focused for that need.
When it comes to sport, automotive, music, film, fashion etc, the same is true. Even within my own tiny publishing ambitions I can cover motorcycling, online racing games, FPS games etc. All of which come without the risk of offending fellow commuters with a half-naked celebrity when you’re in public.
The newspapers which are most at risk in the digital age are those without the specialist expertise which can fuel a paywall system, or the massive resources to attempt a global audience big enough to command advertising spend. Those in the middle are the ones getting squeezed.
And if you’re targetting a male audience for your products, you can go to communities and websites which have a laser-focus on one particular subject, or you can go for massive web properties and use their targetting to filter your advert to just appear to a huge number of men.
But it’s increasingly difficult to see the value in creating, publishing or spending money with something that tries to be everything to every bloke.