With news this week that ‘lads’ magazine Nuts is set to close, anyone working in public relations, media or marketing is likely to be thinking one thing. Namely whether or not there is still a sector left in this end of the publishing game at all.
The magazine lost 1/3 of its circulation (year on year) in the second half of 2013, as did arch rival Zoo, and now 25 staff are set to be affected by its closure. A key catalyst could well have been the decision by publishers to remove stock from Co-operative stores after the retailer demanded lewd front cover models were ‘covered up’, but this area of magazines has been in trouble for some time already.
Mothers across the country once winced at the idea of their teenage sons bringing home a glossy boasting clothes too expensive for school children and scantily clad women, amongst a few other items, but it’s likely that’s the least of their worries in 2014. It was once a given that at least one member of a group of four or five young chaps would have the latest copy of FHM, Loaded or- for those of a more upmarket disposition- GQ in their rucksack. Now you’ll be lucky to find a school kid who ever buys a magazine, not least for pretty ladies alone.
Times have well and truly changed when it comes to media consumption, and whilst all magazines have been hit by the ongoing online trend, few have found themselves in quite such a precarious position as the lads mags. A decade ago, when the full threat to print posed by the Internet was only really becoming apparent, Nuts and Zoo launched in rivalled attempts to revolutionise the marketplace.
As weeklies, rather than the traditional monthly issue cycle, the high frequency and overall production costs meant they had to be cheaper products when compared with those titles only published every four weeks. This may have proved effective in the short-to-medium-term, galvanising a new audience that just wanted a quick read and a laugh for £1.50, yet over a longer period this has arguably done far more harm than good, and not just to Nuts and Zoo, but the sector overall. FHM and Loaded, the two big monthlies, followed suit in terms of tone and content, in turn potentially alienating older adults.
Today then, as our headline reads, Nuts offices are about to become available to new tenants as the publication ceases, Zoo still exists but with a falling readership, Loaded has only just avoided falling foul of bad fortunes through successive buyouts and sales, and in February FHM reported that circulation during the last half of 2013 had dropped below 100,000 per issue. At its peak that would have read 600,00+. The key problem being less and less people in the 16-30 age range are regulars at the newsagent, though quite what the answer to that is we don’t really know, and as such it should be interesting to see what steps are taken to try and secure what market remains.