PUBLISHERS WOO THE REGULAR GUY: 'MAXIM'S' SUCCESS HAS MAGAZINES LOOKING AT WAYS TO WIN YOUNG MEN

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The frat-house boys of the magazine world have already started to party on the nation's newsstands. Now they're going to kick it up a notch.

With the ascent of Dennis Publishing's Maxim as a circulation powerhouse, other magazine publishers have plans to grab a piece of the regular-guy market. The newsstands will soon grow even more crowded with titles aimed at satisfying young men's demands for tasteless jokes and scantily clad women.

Emap Petersen recently announced Feb. 15 as the launch date in the U.S. for its popular U.K. title FHM. Also, Bob Guccione Jr.'s fledgling Gear will increase its frequency to monthly starting next month, and Conde Nast Publications unveiled Details' new direction under former Maxim editor Mark Golin.

'MAXIM' SPINOFF

Maxim, in anticipation of increased competition, already has its own spin-off, Stuff, which will be published six times next year.

"I think it is clear that there's a new wave of men out there," said FHM Publisher Dana Fields. "Some of the men's magazines that have been around for decades are a little stale, so there's room for something a little newer and fresher in the market."

Indeed, the days when sophisticated men's titles-such as GQ and Esquire-were arbiters of what makes a man appear to be on the wane. Maxim and FHM are aimed at 20- and 30-something men who prefer beer to brandy and would never hide their copies of Playboy behind The Wall Street Journal.

'EGO GAP'

Patricia J. Thompson, professor of education and women's studies at City University of New York's Lehman College, attributed the shift to an "ego gap" between old-fashioned and modern men, who are having difficulty coming to terms with their masculinity in the '90s.

"I think a lot of men feel emasculated because their dads and grandfathers were so macho," Ms. Thompson said. "Now that women are becoming self-reliant, men are very unsure of themselves."

Whatever the reason-and despite the hand-wringing-the brazen approach is clearly working. Since Maxim's launch just three years ago, the publication has seen phenomenal circulation growth. Plans call for its rate base, now at 950,000, to surpass 1 million next year. Its first spinoff, Stuff, is described by Publisher Lance Ford as Maxim's little brother.

'FHM' IN THE U.S.

Meanwhile, plans for the FHM launch are moving along, with Editor in Chief Ed Needham striving to adapt the "funny, sexy, useful" package for the American market. He said he wants the U.S. version to be recognizably part of an international brand that is already thriving in many overseas markets. The U.S. FHM will import the same logo and cover design of the flagship, with a female celebrity fronting each issue.

Mark Golin, who jumped to Details from Maxim earlier this year, said a redesign is planned for October. He said he's not planning a major overhaul but expects to add more of a sense of humor to the magazine, which has a rate base of 500,000.

Gear, with a significantly lower rate base of 180,000, hopes to expand. Executive Editor Jack Wright said the magazine will go monthly with the October, one-year anniversary issue.

"We've had a great response from readers at newsstands," Mr. Wright said. "We're distinct from Maxim and FHM because we're much more intelligent."

EMBRACING THE RACY

While some advertisers have shied away from the racy content, others are beginning to follow the readers. The September issue of Maxim, for example, has 120 ad pages.

Pablo DeEchevarria, VP-marketing for Perry Ellis International, said he believes men's magazines and the ads that appear in them have both changed as a result of women becoming more secure. Men, he said, "feel they now have permission to

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