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SYDNEY-Undaunted by news agents' crowded magazine racks and declining circulations of the biggest titles, publishers are planning to launch half a dozen new glossies aimed at chic Australian guys as well as dolls in the next few months.

The spur is Australians' growing demand for niche magazines at the expense of the million-circulation weeklies.

According to audit figures, Australians read an average of 16 different titles a year in 1994, spending $595 million, or $35 a head.

The first new magazine, Men's Stuff, hit the newsstands April 26, targeting "`the post-SNAG (Sensitive New Age Guy) male," according to Publisher Gerry Reynolds of Sydney-based Mogul Media.

It had an initial print run of 75,000.

"We're not pandering to political correctness, we're telling it like it is," Mr. Reynolds said. "Men are tired of being labeled .*.*. the only thing the so-called `new man' is sensitive about is being called sensitive."

Hammering home Mr. Reynolds' point, stories in the first issue include "Get off my back-Finally the male perspective" and "How feminism can get you laid."

He adds, perhaps tongue in cheek: "It's about being confident in ourselves and exploring subjects and issues that define us."

Advertisers in the first two issues were sparse, but Qantas Airways, Levi Strauss & Co., Ford and Mazda took their place among local ads for travel agencies, clothing stores and music retailers.

Murdoch Magazines plans to introduce an Australian edition of the French title Marie Claire in August, targeting the educated 25-plus woman who enjoys an international outlook.

When Murdoch Magazines tested the Australian market for Marie Claire last year by slipping the U.K. edition on newsstands, it sold 15,000 copies.

"We expect the local edition to sell 70,000-plus," said Managing Director Matt Handbury.

The "appetite and anticipation" is stronger than when Murdoch Magazines launched New Woman for a thirtysomething audience, Mr. Handbury said, and sold a record 270,000 copies of the first issue before settling at a steady 135,000.

Also targeting "blokes with style" is the Melbourne-based Metropolitan Style, published for the first time in May by Pure Adrenalin Publishing.

The circulation target is 50,000.

"The Australian male is presently in a post-feministic state.... a competitive and image-conscious person in both his personal and professional aspirations," said Managing Director Martin Salter. "He lacks an intelligent, enter-taining magazine."

Hearst International is looking for a joint venture partner to launch an Australian edition of Esquire early next year and to revive Harper's Bazaar, briefly published here in the 1980s.

Hearst is believed to be talking to three local publishers after being turned down by Kerry Packer's Consolidated Press, joint partner with Hearst in several other magazines.

Conde Nast Publications, too, is looking at publishing local editions of its GQ and Vanity Fair in Australia and Asia to add to its already successful Vogue.

Asia-Pacific Chairman Bernard Leser, who retired as chairman of Conde Nast in New York last year and is now living in Sydney, is discussing plans with the parent company.

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