Getting under the (beautifully moisturised) skin of 'Lads Mag' readers...

21 Feb 2011  |  Euan Mackay 
Kantar Media

Euan Mackay, associate director at Kantar Media, assesses the state of the men's magazine market and considers some future paths for publishers...

What exactly has happened to lad culture in this country? When I was a lad (and it wasn't THAT long ago) Oasis were f**king and fighting their way across Cool Britannia. Behind them swept a wave of scruffy young wannabes all tanked to the eyeballs on Stella, religiously clutching their dog-eared copy of the NME and a well-thumbed copy of Loaded...

Fast forward a few years and that scene is unrecognisable. Oasis have given up the ghost. Those scruffy young wannabes have traded their copy of NME and Stella for GHDs and iPhones. And let's not even get started on the political spectrum.

What has been the impact on magazines?

Recent audience figures show that the once biblical NME has posted its worst ABC/NRS performances in its fifty-nine-year history, selling little over 32,000 copies (around half of what they shifted in early 2007).

The NME is not the only notable casualty. ABC figures released this month also show serious year on year declines across the men's sector. Loaded has lost 31% of buyers in the last year, FHM is down by 23%, and, in the weeklies market we see similarly calamitous drops - Zoo readers down by 32% and Nuts by 20%.

Why has this happened?

Whilst audience attrition is often attributed to an increasingly fragmented media landscape, data in the women's magazine market looks more encouraging and many of the leading titles see sales increases...

Given this, it appears something else is at play. Could it be that lads mags have been hit by a perfect storm of fast-developing technologies, changing culture and increased demand for instant content?

The rapid evolution of technology has shaped current lad culture and is directly hitting the bottom line for publishers. Lads are tech-savvy and increasingly image conscious and so 'need' to have the latest gadgets. Kantar Media's recent futurePROOF study confirms this and identified that 16-34 males are the most open to technology and feel the need to keep up to speed with tech trends.

  • 28% agree that they "worry [they] will miss out if [they] don't keep up to speed with new technologies" compared to 16% of the population
  • 42% agree that "new technologies make finding out information more fun" (vs 28% of population)
  • 14% agree that they "buy new gadgets as soon as they come out" (vs 6% of population)

Further analysis of TGI data signals changing attitudes amongst 'Lads' and particularly amongst readers of 'Lads Mags' across the last three years.

In 2010, 50% of all males agree "it's important to me to look well dressed" (around the same as we saw in 2007 ). Interestingly though when we look at the attitudes of lads mag readers we see that in 2007 62% of males, 16-34 who read lads mags (almost always/quite often) agreed with the statement. This figure in Q1 2011 stands at 68% suggesting readers of these titles are becoming increasingly fashion conscious.

We see similar shifts across other attitude statements further supporting this hypothesis...

  • Agree: "I have a very good sense of style": 60% (of lads mag readers) in 2007 increases to 75% in 2010
  • Agree: "It is important to keep young looking": 43% increases to 50% in 2010
  • Agree: "I spend a lot of money on toiletries and cosmetics for personal use" rises from 26% in 2007 to 32% in 2010.

Traditionally content for male magazines is focused on the following three content areas (The three Gs) of:

  • Girls
  • Gadgets
  • Games

Given the statistics above, it's fair to say that we can add a fourth G to the content list in 'Grooming'. This is a trend that's not gone un-noticed by publishers.

Whilst typically men's magazines focus on the three (or four) Gs of content, it's an altogether different 3G that's taking the limelight at the moment. It's the 3G that affords lads access to all this content and more, complete in HD Video or through Interactive APIs. The 3G that allows today's modern men access to digital content via their mobile 24/7. The 3G that allows users to play games for free, even without advertising. It's the mobile 3G that's fast-replacing traditional print media for lads-on-the-go.

So what does this mean for the future of 'lads mags'? Well, put simply there's a need to move with the audience. To further diversify into digital markets. It's fair to say that many publishers have already taken this on board and the prevalence of mobile magazine websites and apps is on the up and up every day. However, just because there are apps, doesn't guarantee audiences nor indeed revenues.

In order to increase the likelihood of these, there is a real need for magazine publishers to better understand their audiences, to get under the (beautifully moisturised) skin of their readers so that they can ensure new platforms (i.e. apps and websites) are developed in line with what the consumer wants and priced at a level that the reader will consider paying.

Kantar Media's blend of skills and methods fit perfectly with this. Our qualitative expertise has recently seen us undertake some exploratory group discussions with female magazine readers to evaluate their thoughts on the future of magazines. For further information on this contact Jason Vir. Whilst our Foresight approach of quantitative price modelling can be used to help publishers pinpoint the optimum price point for any new (or existing) digital or print products.

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