Mags help men make a statement

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With print media that target men aged 18-34, newsstands are as segmented as a high school lunchroom-there's your laddie clique, your metrosexuals and those omnipresent sports nuts.

Advertisers that want to reach a wide swath of the young male population have to hit every shelf. "There are a lot of highly relevant magazine properties," says George Janson, senior partner-director of print at WPP Group's Mediaedge:cia, New York. He asserts that titles like Maxim and ESPN the Magazine "helped dispel the myth" that guys don't read.

There's an essential difference between the relationship males 18-34 have with TV and with magazines-magazines have a "stronger integration with their lifestyles. They're designed to be permanent products. They're not designed to just be a 13-week commitment [like a TV show]. They're designed to integrate into their target group's lives," says Jack Hanrahan, director of print communications at Omnicom Group's OMD.

Magazines such as the laddie or metrosexual titles "are like a badge," he adds. "It's a statement a person makes about himself."

However, "You can't find publications that are all things to all people," says Carol Pais, print buying director at Publicis Groupe's Fallon Worldwide, Minneapolis. "You have to look for psychographic markers. It's harder [to target men] because there are less options."

That's slowly changing. This year, at least five guy-targeted shopping magazines-covering everything from gadgets to pocket squares-will launch. But those titles, including the much-anticipated Cargo from Conde Nast Publications, will need to establish relevancy in their readers' lives quickly. "We think [this demographic is] incredibly brand-active, but they're not loyal to a particular brand," says Christopher Collins, VP-publisher of ESPN the Magazine.

One title often mentioned as a must-buy for advertisers that want to grab these guys is ESPN the Magazine. The title, a joint venture of Walt Disney Co. and Hearst Magazines, "is still on the upswing," says Ms. Pais. Though Time Inc.'s Sports Illustrated "still has ESPN beat on sheer numbers," she says, "for a higher concentration of younger men, go with ESPN."

Mr. Collins says the key to his magazine's success in reaching younger readers-the median age of its readers is 30-is relevancy to their lives. Because they have "so much access [to information, the magazine] must be relevant so that they continue to come back," he says.

The editorial mission must fit with the time constraints of the reader, Mr. Collins adds. Since the Internet and TV serve up what happened during a game, "we're all about what's next," he says. According to research, 95% of ESPN the Magazine subscribers read the every-other-weekly within three days of getting it. Most spend an hour with the magazine, and for guys 18-34 that time goes up.

Magazines that concentrate on a single sport, like Time Inc.'s TransWorld Skateboarding, are also a good place to reach 18-to-21-year-old guys, says Ms. Pais.

Ms. Pais adds that, shopping magazines aside, she doesn't foresee a huge influx of new men's titles hitting newsstands anytime soon. She believes the greatest growth will come from existing titles using more "creative initiatives for distribution" including the campus programs by SI and The New Yorker, and more custom-published titles.

metrosexual growth

The laddie genre has plateaued, Ms. Pais believes. She contends that "sophomoric humor has its limitations as far as holding a reader's attention span." But she sees growth potential in the relatively new segment of metrosexual-theme magazines.

Alternative newsweeklies are another group of publications mentioned by advertisers looking to reach young men. According to the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, 38.5% of these publications' readers fall between the ages of 18 and 34 vs. a national average for newspapers of 31.4%.

One alt newsweekly that skews male is The Stranger in Seattle. Launched 12 years ago, the free weekly says 60% of its readership is male and 42% of its 300,000 readers are 25 to 34, according to Tim Keck, publisher of The Stranger and president of Index Newspapers.

The Stranger goes where the boys are. "We really think we're in the right cafes," Mr. Keck says, "and there's not a tattoo parlor in town that doesn't carry The Stranger."