In Circ: Where have all the male readers gone?

With all the changes happening in the magazine world, it’s no longer surprising to see 15 new stories a day about closings, cutbacks, new hires and launches across the industry.

What has been eye-catching in the past few weeks has been the number of cutbacks affecting titles aimed at male readers. It started with Men’s Vogue folding into its female-driven counterpart just a few weeks ago. Now, the weekly DNR — another Condé Nast men’s fashion offering — is shuttering in print and online.

And it’s not just fashion that’s suffering in the men’s sector. Last week, The New York Times closed up shop at its weekend sports glossy, Play, and this week Time Inc.’s Sports Illustrated Latino followed suit. Outside Go, Outside magazine’s high-end men’s spinoff is moving from six times per year  down to twice yearly — a big surprise, considering it just raised its frequency from four per year earlier in 2008, and was planning to increase circulation by almost 10% in 2009.

Even sex can’t seem to hold male readers’ attentions. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Alpha Media Group, home of “lad mags” Maxim and Blender, may be in for a restructuring, thanks to soft ad sales.

There have been exceptions: Details, another men’s fashion glossy, plans to up its rate base, from 425,000 to 450,000, in January. Plenty of women’s magazines, too — most recently O at Home — have felt the squeeze in recent months. But the recent spate of troubles at men’s magazines has me wondering, what is it about male readers?

Do they simply read less than women? Are they harder to market to or less engaged in their reading materials? Is it harder to sell ads, especially given the rise of women’s spending power in the household? Theories — crackpot and otherwise — are welcome.

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