Decline and fall of the lad mag?


Courtesy of Janine, I am intrigued by this story about the collapsing circulation of the British lad mag. And not without a little bit of schadenfreude… but how do we explain this huge downturn in what had been a thriving sector? Is it that, as Janine hopes, the British man has suddenly become less sexist? I don’t think so, at least I don’t think there is evidence to suggest that. And the collapse is too sudden anyway to mirror a change in social attitudes.

Taking the individual results, while there is a decline all round, it is the 35% year-on-year drop in Loaded’s circulation that catches the eye. Why Loaded in particular? Well, I suppose mid-market squeeze comes into play. Consider that your more upmarket glossies like FHM and Maxim are basically consumer lifestyle magazines, maybe 80% taken up with cars, clothes and gadgets, including lots of advertising, with a little cheesecake thrown in to sex things up a bit. At the other end of the market you have your Zoo and your Nuts, the weeklies with a very young and working-class readership, which are about 50% football and 50% tits – the Daily Star in magazine form. In this scenario, Loaded, believe it or not, is the mid-market title, which would allow it to bestride a healthy market like a colossus, but suggests it has a softer readership, making it more vulnerable to a market downturn than a magazine with more of a niche readership.

But we also see huge falls for the other main titles – Maxim and FHM down 26%, Nuts and Zoo down 9% and 18% respectively. So what’s the explanation for this precipitous decline in the entire market? I have no evidence for this, only instinct, but I’m not convinced that the internet is to blame. The internet has, it’s true, killed off the old-style porn mag, but your net nerds who surf for porn are more likely to be enthusiasts, not casual readers, and in any case the lad mags don’t offer porn but Page Three-type glamour photography. Besides, although you can get all the saucy pictures you want on the net, that’s been true for years.

(Parenthetically, I’m yet to be convinced by the argument that the net is killing the print media. Personally, and the younger generation may be different here, I like to have hard copy in front of me. There is a bit of a parallel with Socialist Worker’s declining sales – your average punter who buys SW will buy it on a street stall or a demo, while I would guess that most readers of the online version are old lefties like me who want to keep tabs on the SWP. So you have to look elsewhere for explanations.)

Maybe there is a certain element of tease fatigue due to the mags’ actual (and legally constrained) tameness compared to what they promise. Old-time porn director David McGillivray used to say that the British sex film was “all sizzle and no sausage”, and that’s applicable here. The mags promise much more in terms of sexual content than they deliver. Let’s say that your glossy mag devotes as much space to cars as it does to glamour models – it will still put Lucy and Michelle on the cover in preference to a car, on the well-known publishing principle that attractive women on the cover sell magazines. And, publishing hype being what it is, the blurb will say “Lucy and Michelle – their hottest photos yet!!!” And then, if you shell out your three quid fifty, it turns out that what you get is six pages of Lucy and Michelle’s boobs – which are impressive, to be sure, if you like that sort of thing, but your mag-buying punter has probably seen them dozens of times already.

If I was to pull a theory out of my left ear, I would hazard a guess that one big factor is mobile downloads. The new generation of 3G mobiles have only really come on stream in the last year or so, but all the kids seem to have them. And, where dopey kids used to be restricted to the Crazy Frog, now you can download saucy photos and video clips direct to your mobile. This sort of thing gets advertised on the TV, and lots of teenagers appear to be buying into it. And that, I suppose, combined with a bit of the net and all the sauce that’s available on your Sky or Freeview, conspires to undermine the printed page. It will be interesting to see whether this is just a fad or whether the bottom has fallen permanently out of the market.

Rud eile: I’ll not bother with Gail Walker Watch this week, as her column is pretty boring – a bit on Amy Winehouse, a bit on ill-mannered motorists, and Prince William getting slagged yet again. You can have more fun with Catherine Townsend’s sex diary, though God alone knows what traditional Telegraph readers make of it.

Rud eile fós: I see Swiss Toni is speaking to the proletariat at Cultúrlann tomorrow night. I don’t think I’ll bother. All things considered, I’d rather be watching My Name Is Earl.


  1. ejh said,

    August 22, 2007 at 11:28 am

    The internet has, it’s true, killed off the old-style porn mag……I’m yet to be convinced by the argument that the net is killing the print media


  2. splinteredsunrise said,

    August 22, 2007 at 11:34 am

    Clarification: the print media in general survives. The British soft porn mag of the 70s and 80s has no reason to survive when you can get all the hard stuff you want online.

  3. ejh said,

    August 22, 2007 at 11:42 am

    Dunno about the UK, but you’d be surprised how much pornography is on sale at news stands here.

  4. August 22, 2007 at 11:56 am

    […] Decline and fall of the lad mag? » This Summary is from an article posted at Splintered Sunrise on Wednesday, August 22, 2007 […]

  5. splinteredsunrise said,

    August 22, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    Of course you wouldn’t have the Obscene Publications Act… you have in recent years had US porn appearing in the newsagents here, and I suppose the market has been squeezed between those who like their porn explicit and those who want some mild cheesecake.

  6. August 22, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    […] Efron Decline and fall of the lad mag? » This Summary is from an article posted at Splintered Sunrise on Wednesday, August 22, 2007 […]

  7. Cian said,

    August 22, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    I was slightly baffled/bewildered to learn that the cast, director and writer of “My Name is Earl” are all scientologists. What can it mean?

  8. Ed Hayes said,

    August 22, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    Are they all Scientologists? Jason Lee, Jamie Pressly etc? Never knew that. Re Swiss Toni, I seem to remember agonizing discussions in the SWM/SWP both here and in Britain over porn, how bad it was, was it bad at all, should it be censored, should there be censorship from below etc. The free for all tendencey won out, though you weren’t supposed to read it yourself of course. Whats the boss talking about in Culturlann?

  9. splinteredsunrise said,

    August 22, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    I know Jason Lee and Ethan Suplee are followers of L Ron, as is the writer. How the show relates to the teachings of Scientology is baffling… never heard Xenu mentioned.

    Yeah, the censorship from below thing was funny, they always had trouble reconciling their libertarian and puritanical strands. Unfortunately, the boss isn’t talking about that. He’s talking about the corporate takeover of Ireland – I assume in connection with the glorious struggle around the Andytown barracks site.

  10. Frank Little said,

    August 22, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    “You can have more fun with Catherine Townsend’s sex diary,”

    I’m stunned. I never knew stuff like that existed in the Telegraph.

    “He’s talking about the corporate takeover of Ireland – I assume in connection with the glorious struggle around the Andytown barracks site.”

    And possibly in connection with book sales. I understand it is challenging Rowling’s latest effort in the charts.

    On the porn thing I’m going to go with the Daily Mail mindset and blame the internet. Yes, porn has been available on the net prior to this. But the amount, quality, and fact that most of it is now free must make a substantial difference. As would the increased penetration (Oh Matron) of broadband access and familiarity with the internet.

    There’s even their own youtube rip-off, Sometimes one could be forgiven for thinking the internet was actually set up for pornography, the development of everything else a happy coincedence.

  11. WorldbyStorm said,

    August 22, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    Isn’t it still true that pron makes up an enormous amount of net traffic and google-type searches?

    I’m always intrigued by how Penthouse sort of collapsed in the UK in the mid to late 1990s. It was around the time hardcore was becoming available in the UK more widely during the first Blair govt and Penthouse first tried to do a fairly arty somewhat BDSM style mag makeover (naturally I know all this from the Media Guardian), then a slightly more hardcore approach. Neither worked. End of distinct UK edition IIRC. The squeeze – as it were – was between the lads mags and serious hardcore stuff – which people like Hustler were more adept at pushing since they were already halfway there. If the lads mags are going, well, what’s left? That’s a great theory incidentally splinteredsunrise.

  12. splinteredsunrise said,

    August 22, 2007 at 7:06 pm

    The usual stat quoted is 50% of traffic – I would guess it’s more likely 50% of bandwidth, bearing in mind you’re talking big video files etc. And my Google searches can get a bit fruity sometimes.

    I was thinking of something Ben Dover was saying on the TV a while back, about how if you were selling sex to the US or Europe you needed a reasonable quality, but the Brits were so starved they would buy any old crap. Whatever about Guccione’s artistic pretensions, there was a time you couldn’t go to the cinema in London without seeing Robin Askwith’s arse. And in Ireland you didn’t even get that.

  13. Cian said,

    August 22, 2007 at 7:35 pm

    I think the usual stat is probably bollocks. Its a pretty good rule of thumb that any statistic about internet behaviour has been made up. I mean seriously, where are you going to get reliable stats on how much Porn is being downloaded?

  14. ejh said,

    August 22, 2007 at 8:52 pm

    there was a time you couldn’t go to the cinema in London without seeing Robin Askwith’s arse.

    And don’t forget Cherie Booth’s old man.

  15. splinteredsunrise said,

    August 23, 2007 at 11:21 am

    On browsing down my categories, I’ve just noticed the sequence “Sex, Snooker, Socialism”. Now if Militant had been canny enough to use that on their masthead… 😉

  16. ejh said,

    August 23, 2007 at 11:31 am

    Why not put it on yours?

  17. splinteredsunrise said,

    August 23, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    You know, I’m tempted. It would mean writing more about snooker, though.

  18. WorldbyStorm said,

    August 23, 2007 at 7:32 pm

    The book Pornucopia is a great history of porn and points up much of what you say splintered sunrise. For example it notes that the Private porn empire was selling ‘luxury’ porn on the continent for decades in a way which was completely different to the UK.

  19. August 31, 2007 at 11:41 am

    […] for a while to write about this “raunch culture” debate, but, having recently covered the lad mag circulation crisis and the culture of sexual hypocrisy on the left, now seems as good a time as any. This is something […]

  20. Brady said,

    November 27, 2007 at 9:02 pm

    As a handsome black 54-year-old Canadian lad,I’d like some feedback from
    some posters about my belief that there should be publications which target
    us older dudes who are as dedicated to beer,sports and boobs as the youn-
    ger chaps,a recognition of the increasingly higher age of the boys’ club.

  21. July 15, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    […] con el mercado de revistas para hombres, “Tendencia” tuvo que venderlas en combo. Y eso es un fenómeno mundial. Tampoco esperemos ver minas totalmente en bolas en una revista de Tinelli porque atentaría contra […]

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