The monthly men's market must accept it has lost younger readers to the weeklies and concentrate on increasing current market share, the editor of its biggest seller has said.
FHM editor Ross Brown, who has overseen a revamp of the Emap title this month, said the days of monthly million-mark sales were over and that the market would see some casualties.
Brown said: "When I started, FHM was always described as a broad church, with something for everybody. That focus has changed now — [the younger readers] have gone, let's accept that.
Let's concentrate on providing the very best environment for our existing readers. My job is to ensure that our existing readers come back more often and stay longer, rather than try to recruit every man and boy in the country."
He added: "I'm not chasing circulation. I'm assuming — and I'd be happily proved wrong — that the days of 700,000 sales [are over]. I've been at FHM when it sold a million on the newsstand. That's not my job now. My job is to increase monthly share by providing great writing, real humour and a good monthly read, [and] at the same time shutting down the competition. We can't all exist in this market."
FHM will be aiming for the 25- to 26- year-old reader, Brown said, with a shift in tone to mark the title out from the weeklies such as Nuts and Zoo. Brown said FHM was not going up-market, but would be "inspirational, aspirational and intelligent" and its humour would be "less giggles, more laughs". He added that great journalism had been missing from the title, which has brought in new features and section editors plus new columnists including former Maxim editor, Greg Gutfeld.
FHM's bottom line, however, would remain intact, said Brown: "The aim of the mag is twofold: to make your life better and get you laid."
The men's monthlies were one of the biggest casualities in the latest ABCs, with all general interest titles down, bar Condé Nast's GQ, which went up 1.4 per cent and IPC's Nuts, which was stable.
FHM lost almost a quarter of its circulation, down 24.9 per cent to 420,688, while Loaded was down more than 20 per cent and Maxim more than 35 per cent.
Brown said the revamp was not a fullon relaunch and not a reaction to the latest ABC figures, but a recognition of the strengths and weaknesses of monthly magazines. While FHM could not compete on timeliness with new media sources, it would bring high production values and monthly "surprises" to its readers. Its October issue profiles the girls of MySpace on its cover.
On competitors in the sector, Brown said: "You look at the way the competition has reacted to the market and it's been deplorable. Maxim's knee-jerk reaction was to get rid of an editor without investing much time in him. Loaded slashed its price and put a DVD on every issue — that's not a long-term plan."