Drowning in a sea of tits and anal tears

Maxim has shut down, less than a month after the closure of Arena. Back in early March, Brian Schofield (Arena contributing editor) made this analysis of the problems for men’s magazines, putting the slump down to the frantic imitation of the tits-and-goals mens’ weeklies: “joining the younger lads’ titles in a suicide charge into grubby oblivion, to be munched up by the new weekly grot-mags Nuts and Zoo – and, of course, by the simple fact that exposed breasts are quite easy to find for free on the internet.” (My newsagent keeps Nuts and Zoo on the top shelf with the authentic stroke mags, and everyone knows how well they’re doing.)

On the Media Show this week, Condé Nast’s UK managing director Nicholas Coleridge kicked the weak content of the mens’ glossies into tiny little bits:

In the end there were six articles that appeared in the lads’ magazines. This was the formula. You had softporn pictures. You had ‘Highstreet Honeys’, which was when people sent in pictures of their girlfriends, and in fact it was rather early user-generated copy that appeared in the magazines. And what I always think of as ‘Sharks And Nazis’, which were articles about deep-sea fishing – there were an incredible number of them – and articles that had a Nazi connection. A little bit of sport, and medical abnormalities – a tremendous number of pictures of medical abnormalities appeared in the lads’ magazines. And I think people simply felt, ‘god, I’ve seen this, I’ve seen this.’ […] I think in the end, they were rather bad magazines.

It’s worth remembering that Condé Nast has just invested in the UK launch of Wired – which, while not exactly a mens’ mag, is a magazine with a largely male readership (I’d guess) and, importantly, a heavy commitment to original features – so Coleridge’s faith in content is all over his business strategy. In the same segment of the Media Show, James Brown claimed that lack of diversity had murderered the mens’ market, but a lot of the homgeneity was self-inflicted: publishers assumed that whatever was popular was the same as what their readers wanted, without preserving the qualities that originally made people love the magazine (at one time, I used to read FHM mostly because they had a killer caption writer who hid something funny on every page). Just because it’s what the people want doesn’t mean it’s what your audience wants.