What to watch: The future of men’s magazines is in flux
Is there a crisis in men’s magazines? It certainly seems that way. L’Uomo Vogue, Vogue Italia’s brother publication, was among the four titles that the Italian publisher decided to shutter earlier this summer. Wenner Media sold Men’s Journal to National Enquirer publisher David Pecker’s American Media Inc. in June, where it is getting combined with Men’s Fitness, AMI’s other male title. With Rodale Inc. on the block, who knows what the future has in store for Men’s Health?
The stalwarts of men’s fashion titles, Esquire and GQ, have managed to keep their circulation relatively consistent, but they are feeling the industry-wide decline in newsstand sales. According to the Alliance for Audited Media, Esquire’s total paid and verified circulation for 2016 was 762,906 compared to 737,483 in 2015, but newsstand sales dipped to 39,473 in 2016 from 76,531 in 2015. GQ’s total paid and verified circulation for 2016 was 944,549 compared to 958,926 in 2015, and GQ’s newsstand sales slid to 62,973 in 2016 from 96,610 in 2015.
Many of the issues with men’s magazines are the same as with all magazines — print is taking a hit as advertisers look to digital and publishers look to diversify as fashion and retail advertisers are facing disruption of their own.
In 2015, Condé Nast pulled the plug on Details. Coincidentally or not, that news came just weeks after Condé bought Pitchfork Media, the hipster music company, in a bid to target Millennial dudes with live events. That same fall, Hearst invested $21 million in Complex, a media outlet aimed at fans of hip-hop, sneakers and videos about hip-hop and sneakers.
No discussion of the men’s publishing would be complete without Vice, the ultimate dude-oriented company that continues to win over advertisers and investors in 2017. Just ask Shane Smith, who dangles the possibility of going public anytime he wants to drum up more investment. Most recently, in June, the hipster media juggernaut raised $450 million — giving it a $5.7 billion valuation.
A changing market, as much as the decline in print advertising, may be behind the shift in men’s magazines. In 2017, advertisers want the Vice Guy.