Men's Health Living? Yup, Shelter for Your Abs

Rodale Monthly Spins Off Home-Focused Title

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NEW YORK ( -- Sure it makes sense for Vogue to try spinning off a Vogue Living, and Men's Health should have led to Women's Health a lot earlier than it did, but do guys really want Men's Health Living?

The South Africa version of Men's Health Living.
The South Africa version of Men's Health Living.
It may not seem intuitive, but Men's Health Editor-In-Chief Dave Zinczenko and the Rodale team say the answer is yes. So September will bring to newsstands a special, standalone issue devoted to men's shelter, a category that This Old House pretty much claims as its own in the U.S. If the test performs well, Rodale wants to make it an ongoing title.

'Natural extension'
Mr. Zinczenko, whose March Men's Health answers reader questions including "How can I persuade her to switch to thongs?" said the shelter spinoff won't read like "Dude, where's my sofa?"

"To us, this is a natural extension of Men's Health's health because a well-managed life starts with a well-managed home," he said. "Just like Men's Health empowers men to seize control of their bodies, Men's Health Living will empower men to take control of their environment.

"The pages will drip with service but there will also be a lot of style," Mr. Zinczenko said. "If you look at the market it's absolutely ready for a first-of-its-kind magazine. You have major advertisers from LL Bean to Porsche getting into home design. Porsche is doing steak knives."

'Guys have a definite say'
And men are taking an increasingly active role in deciding how their homes look, said Jack Essig, VP-publisher, Men's Health. "It started with the whole flat-screen home-entertainment center, also home gyms. That has branched out now to finishing the basement. ... Guys have a definite say in the colors that go into their homes, the fabrics -- they don't want it to be all about the floral, more feminine look."

"There's not a magazine for men," Mr. Essig added, "that speaks to that."

One media buyer sounded a little skeptical. "You'd have to take a look at who the decision-makers are as far as home furnishings go," said Debbie Sklar, VP-director of print services, Horizon Media. "I'd be leery on a new entry into the market at this time with that kind of target. And I wonder outside of a metropolitan area what kind of play you're going to get. The higher-end shelter books have that same problem, but a book aimed at men might struggle even further."

A real opportunity?
There's undeniably a gap in the market, but it will take Rodale's September test to find out whether there's really an opportunity in the space.

For its part, Men's Health said it has more than hope to rely on. In South Africa, where the concept was tested first, Men's Health Living won a 2006 launch-of-the-year nod from the country's magazine association -- and will go monthly soon. (One of its recent coverlines indicates the kind of territory covered: Rent a Chainsaw, Install a Safe, Fit a Dimmer Switch and Buy the Best Toasted Sarmie Maker in Town.")

"It is clear that men have always been interested in the decor category," Andrew Sneddon, publishing director, Men's Health Living in South Africa, said in an e-mail interview. "This is evidenced in the traditionally high male readership figures of what are purportedly female-targeted shelter titles."

"As marketers questioned the viability of the grooming sector 10 years ago, so do the same skeptics question the viability of the men's-shelter category," Mr. Sneddon said. "In our view the market is there and has been there. It is simply a matter of which publisher is brave enough to take the first step."
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