We’ve had quality men’s magazines for a very long time now - represented by GQ, Esquire and the like. But the early 90’s saw the rise of a slightly more rough and ready lifestyle in the form of ’Lads’ Culture’. This was best represented by the bible of Lads’ Culture - ’Loaded’ which had Gary Oldman fronting its very first May 1994 issue.
James Brown’s slightly risqué editorial stance - essentially drugs, boozing, womanising, music and sports (sex, drugs and rock’n’roll) aligned it with similarly motivated bands of the day like Oasis most notably, and it had a marked impact on the tone of competing titles (FHM and Maxim) as well as being the key catalyst in the rise of progressively more flesh-baring titles - Nuts, Zoo and Front.
As with all cultural movements there is a natural cycle, and Lads’ Mags started going into decline from about 2008 onwards. First casualty was UK Maxim in June 2009, then Nuts in April of last year, and now all of this year’s terminations - culminating with Bauer Media announcing that it would suspend publishing of its FHM and Zoo titles. The above visual features the final issues of each of these key publications.
The News Stand / magazine rack now has a sizeable hole in it - as you can compare with the lower half of the visual. Arena men’s magazine was an earlier casualty of a different sort, but we have lost a lot of print titles here. Some will continue as digital properties, although there are question marks around several of these - including what will become of Front - which has suffered numerous suspensions in publishing already and is currently in flux.
Personally, I only buy print magazines when I travel by plane - which is not all too oftent these days. Many of my favourite magazines have long since passed away - Face etc. I have bought a number of Lads’ Mags myself over the years, yet I am far from sad to see them disappear. AskMen has kind of set the pace for online / digital-only mens publications, but there is plenty of room for more digital properties, if done right.
All this just underlines the ongoing decline in print overall, as well as a paradigm shift in culture and attitudes - where values change over time. Only FHM’s 100 Sexiest Women was really doing any numbers in the end, and the publisher retains the option to keep bringing that out as a special edition if worthwhile. Yet your typical 18-35 male audience is probably more likely to retain some form of digital wallpaper or screensaver nowadays than pinups in paper format.
Talking of pinups - Playboy magazine announced earlier this year that it would end its nude pinups / centrefolds and move forward with partially covered-up women instead. Penthouse has ceased publishing again, meaning most likely the men’s top shelf titles will be the next to go in this ongoing magazine clear-out. It will be interesting to see how much space in your typical WHSmith will be dedicated to magazines in the next 5 or 10 years ...