Tough times for US lads' mags

Lads' mags, which did so well when they were first launched in the US, are now experiencing tough times. At Maxim, Stuff and FHM, ad pages have dropped markedly this year, and so has revenue.

The latest figures from the Publishers' Information Bureau confirm the trend, although Maxim — according to Media Daily News — is struggling hard to counter the downward trend it is turning out to be a tough battle.

In August, for example, ad pages in Maxim were down almost 16 per cent compared to the same month a year ago. Income was down more than 10 per cent. Poor newsstand sales are to blame. Compared with a year ago, single-copy sales in the first six months of this year were down over 14 per cent.

Dennis Publishing is doing its best to reverse the trend. A new editor-in-chief, Jimmy Jellinek, has been appointed, and already it seems to be paying off. Ad pages for November are up almost 27 per cent over this time last year. Whether newsstand sales will also go up remains to be seen,

The situation at FHM, which is Maxim's main competitor, is also not promising. In August its ad pages were down almost nine per cent, revenue fell almost three per cent. compared with a year ago. Overall, ad pages for the year so far are down 17 per cent, and revenues down 12 per cent.

This is despite several efforts to remake the magazine. Lately, FHM has become a lot more sexy with cover-girls showing more skin in an effort to boost newsstand sales. Some vendors — including the largest in New York's Grand Central Station — have started to cover up some of the covers, at least partially.

Stuff, another Dennis publication, is also suffering. In August, ad pages were down 11 per cent over the same month last year, and income was down four per cent. For the year to date, ad pages are down nearly nine per cent. Revenue dropped almost two per cent.

One of the problems facing all the lads' mags is that sexing up their covers is not necessarily the answer. In fact it creates new problems. Although there is no specific law against it, liquor companies are averse to magazines that use under-age starlets. Liquor companies in fact will not advertise in a magazine if the face on the cover cannot legally drink — and that is 21 in the United States.

When FHM decided to run a picture on its upcoming November issue of a scantily clad Brooke Hogan, the 18-year-old daughter of wrestler Hulk Hogan, they had to notify liquor advertisers. The result? They lost the liquor ads.

The only consolation was the advertisers agreed to switch their ads to the December issue — so FHM claims it didn't lose any money. It was, it turns out, the first time the Emap mag had used someone under 21 on the cover. No one will say whether they will do it again, but it is unlikely.

A spokesman for the Distilled Spirits Council of America, which is something of a watchdog on this issu,. said that its "code of conduct" lays down that models in liquor ads should be over 21, and although there is no law to this effect, nor one laying down rules for magazine covers, the organisation does consider its members should maintain the "highest standards".

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