Gentleman's Quarterly recently asked men to 'fess up. Earlier this year, it surveyed men who did not subscribe to GQ about everything from how often they buy furniture to how much time they spend grooming each day.
Just two years ago, the magazine commissioned a similar survey of 2,500 men. The results were drastically different. In the most recent survey, men said they spent more than of 45 minutes each day on personal grooming, compared to less than 30 minutes in 1988. In the 1990 survey, half the men said they had recently purchased furniture. Two years ago, the number of men who were interested in buying furniture was considered so tiny that the question wasn't even asked.
"Today's men are interested in what were traditionally female-only spheres," said Michael Clinton, publisher of the Conde Naste-owned publication. GQ's mission: Get that message across to advertisers before a projected slew of new men's magazines hit the market in the next year.
No less than four new or revamped publications have announced plans to begin publishing general-interest men's magazines in the next year. Several others, while not exclusively for men, are expected to attract a large male readership.
Two new magazines are Men (Norris Publishing) and Men's Life (Murdoch Magazines). Two publications revamped to attract more men are Details (Advance Publications) and M Inc. (Metrocorp Publishing). And the publishers of Forbes and Business Week have plans to introduce special quarterly publications, called FYI and Assets, that are expected to attract large numbers of men.
Generally speaking, the magazines are chasing men 25 to 45 with median household incomes of $35,000 to $45,000 annually.
"If you look at Vogue and Elle, you see they're bursting with ads," said Leo Greenland, chairman of Smith/Greenland, the New York agency that creates ads for Penthouse. "So publishing executives are asking themselves: Why shouldn't men's books be bursting with ads, too?"
There are slightly more complex theories than the ad disparity about why there is going to be a boom in men's publications. "Since the feminist movement of the early '60s, men have been put on the back burner," said Christopher Kimball, publisher of Men, which expects to hit newsstands early next year. "Now there is a re-emergence of the American man. Men are beginning to buy products, like household furnishings and cosmetics, which until now were primarily purchased by women."
Indeed, Esquire has managed to attract some surprising new advertisers in recent issues, including Artemide Lighting, a maker of designer lamps, and Orrefors, a Swedish maker of costly crystal. A few years ago, these advertisers wouldn't consider men's magazines.
Makers of household furnishings bought more than 30 pages of advertising in Esquire last year. Five years ago, they purchased a handful. "Keep in mind, advertisers are refocusing attention on the men's market during one of the worst periods of magazine publishing in years," said W. Randall Jones of Hearst Corp., publisher of Esquire.
The number of all magazine advertising pages sold in the first five months of 1990 was down 3.2% compared to the same period in 1989, according to Publishers Information Bureau.
The question is: Can the new men's magazines attract advertisers? Agency executives who buy space in magazines for advertisers say they can--but they don't know for how long.
"Many advertisers like to appear in new magazines," said Richard Weigand, senior vice president of media operations at Saatchi & Saatchi DFS/Pacific, which buys large blocks of advertising for Toyota. New magazines often attract large advertisers with big discounts. "Even if the magazine doesn't make it," said Weigand, "it doesn't cost the advertiser that much."
Media buyers say they are willing to test new magazines, even if initial circulation is small. But they seldom stick around if the ads don't get results. "There are some very strong men's magazines out there already," said Thom Wentzel, media planner at the Los Angeles office of Bozell Inc. "Unless these magazines prove they can reach the right readers, they'll have a hard time hanging on to advertisers."
"So far, we can only judge them on what they say they will do: reach the upwardly mobile yuppies of the '90s," said Samir Husni, a journalism professor at the University of Mississippi, which annually publishes Samir Husni's Guide to New Magazines. In the end, Husni predicts, "maybe half of them will survive."
But tens of millions of dollars are being invested in men's magazines by backers who insist the publications can make it. And some will. Consider the success of Men's Health, published by Rodale Press, which has attracted more than 250,000 subscribers since it started publishing in 1987. In the 1990s, there is a growing belief that men are interested in buying magazines for advice on how to be smarter consumers and live better lives.