Its old attempts to de-emphasize its gay readers have given way to cover lines like, "We don't care if you think we're gay," which appears prominently on the big September issue hitting newsstands tomorrow, and that strategy has brought the 17- year-old title its first sustained profitability, according to insiders at Advance Magazine Publishers.
Details has gotten more comfortable acknowledging its straight readers as well as its gay readers, which make up about a third of the audience.
Advance owns Conde Nast Publications, which bought Details in 1988 and shuttered it in 2000, as well as Fairchild Publications, which relaunched it the same year.
A lot has changed since 1992, when then-Editor James Truman downplayed a Details photo depicting a man preparing for his date with another man by saying, "We're a heterosexual magazine that is not uptight about homosexual issues."
Next month, Conde Nast takes another stab at the market it ceded to Fairchild five years ago. Everyone now seems more comfortable with the idea of a fashion magazine for men, even if it does come off a bit foppish. The inaugural issue of Men's Vogue, a title planned for readers of all sexual orientations, carries 164 ad pages.
In 1992, Conde Nast and Details did not want to compromise the idea that the magazine served heterosexual guys, said Marian Salzman, exec VP-director of strategic content, JWT. "It was this fear that advertisers felt that gays were a fringe community," she said.
Since then, of course, big audiences have watched "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" makeovers of macho figures like Johnny Damon of the Boston Red Sox. Now, Ms. Salzman said, "Details is onto something. The real opinion leaders don't care if you think they're gay either."
Mary Berner, president-CEO at Fairchild, said Details now serves a distinct niche. "It was once called `metrosexual,' but now you'd call it the hip urban gay or straight man." The approach evolved organically, she added. "We've never said let's go after gay readers." She declined to discuss the magazine's finances.
Most big men's magazines still aim emphatically, even exclusively, at straight guys; titles such as Men's Journal, Men's Health and GQ offer few if any nods to the gay men among their readers. And the Maxim and FHM crowd is clearly interested in the babes.
The positioning partly reflects the big-city readership of Details, said Chris Boothe, exec VP-group client leader at Starcom USA. "Details' core reader is in a more urban area," he said. "Some of those other books are huge and reach all parts of the country, some parts of which are less comfortable with gay content."
But those titles could serve their readers better, said Chris Mitchell, Details' VP-publisher. "It begs the question for other titles which, conventional wisdom would suggest, have plenty of gay and straight readers alike. When does that rub off on their editorial? When does this become a glaring oversight?"