Glossy Talk: Could men's magazines have a new sheen?

Glossy Talk: Could men's magazines have a new sheen?

Have no fear, Charlie Sheen IS NOT DYING, reports TMZ this morning. Apparently the falling "star" of Two and a Half Men is not on death's door but gearing up (ha!) to be on set of his TV show on Tuesday. 

While many will be disappointed to hear of the reckless, drug-alcohol-and-woman abusing Sheen's apparent recovery from yet another night of debauchery (likely to be recounted in court-chery), the Hot Shot sociopath has already turned the event into Spin City (allergies!).

Similarly, the men's magazine market – which has been flatter than a soggy toupee – is not likely to go down without a fight, at least according to the lead item in today's Australian Financial Review Media & Marketing section, 'ACP puts fight back into men's mags'.

Neil Shoebridge reports that ACP Magazines is set to launch a local version of UFC magazine, a sport and lifestyle title devoted to the Ultimate Fighting Championship League. UFC is apparently a "sport" involving "mixed martial arts fights held in octagon-shaped cages and include karate, boxing, wrestling, kick-boxing and jujitsu".

In the words of The Sydney Morning Herald's Peter FitzSimons cited by Shoebridge, UFC is a "a cross between Fight Club, rock 'n' roll, a vicious bar-room brawl and the fall of Saigon" (something right up Charlie Sheen's alley, as it is fellow UFC supporter James Packer's).

"UFC is the hottest men's magazine franchise in the world and the UFC competitions are the fastest-growing sport in the world," ACP group publishing director Phil Scott told AFR, adding, "It's too early to speculate about what UFC might sell, but I think people are going to be surprised."

Mothers with teenage sons are as likely to rush out to buy UFC magazine as they are copies of the video game Carmageddon, dubbed by as "the racing game for the chemically imbalanced."

Packer's passion for the sport neatly ties into his new interest at Channel 10 and its digital sports channel spin-off One HD, which broadcasts UFC in Australia.Given pay-per-view broadcasts of UFC fights are the biggest source of revenue for US-based UFC parent company Zuffa, the Packer/ONE HD/ACP relationship is potentially a big media coup.

Thankfully, there is tamer fare with a sports focus available for gents in the glossy market, including Fairfax Magazines' Sport & Style, which goes on sale on the first Monday of the month and is inserted into The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age (NSW and Victoria distribution only).

The latest issue features Michael Clarke on the cover and feature stories on both Clarke ('Working Class Man') and his cricketing contemporary Shane Watson. But even this stylish title isn't averse to the pull of a fighting match: two pages are dedicated to Italy's Palio di Siena, a horse race in which rival neighbourhood jockeys beat each other with whips and some don't survive the dirt track's treacherous turns.

Last week, new of the launch of Gaz7etta, the men's magazine equivalent of Grazia, had media heads talking in the UK with its one-off free distribution of 500,000 copies designed to woo upmarket, 30-something, style-conscious male readers.

The 60-page men's style and lifestyle magazine inserted into Bauer titles Q, Mojo, Empire and Grazia aims to translate Grazia UK's success formula (fashion, news and celebrity done with wit and intelligence) into the men's genre, reports The Guardian. Jordan Plunkett reviewed Gaz7etta for the Guardian online. His verdict? So far so insufficient evidence to necessitate a weekly purchase. 

Meanwhile, in the Australian market, men's lifestyle titles with a fashion focus have been faring well. GQ (101,000 readers) and Men's Style (68,000 readers) both registered increases in the June readership audit, while results for lad mags Zoo Weekly (462,000 readers), Alpha (176,000 readers) and FHM (186,000 readers) all fell. GQ also launched its fashion bi-annual, GQ Style, Men's Health is doing 'Guide to Style' inserts and ACP's SHOP Til You Drop masthead carries a SHOP Men supplement (does it have potential to become a stand-alone brother title?).

This renewed focus on men's fashion could be attributed to the Mad Men influence (just as the show was partly responsible for the fuller female figure making a catwalk comeback and Christina Hendricks scoring several glossy covers). The new edition of The Big Issue has devoted its cover to the show's star Jon Hamm. 

"The MM website boasts a 'fashion file', a 'cocktail guide' and a page where you can 'Madmen yourself," writes Lorin Clarke in the cover story. "This new verb, 'to Madmen', literally means to create an image of yourself in the style of the Hitchcock-inspired opening credits of the program." 

Writes Clarke, the "sexism, racism and the toxic workplace environments explicitly breach contemporary standards of voyeurism at its best... The Mad Men audience gets the fantasy with an acknowledgement of the shortcomings of the reality. We can watch Mad Men without having to live it."

In the current socio-cultural context, where women assert more power and influence, the 'reality' may be why more men are turning into Don Draper lookalikes and turning to UFC. It doesn't take Two and a Half Men to work that out that in magazines, men need escapism, inspiration and style tips, too. The appeal of men's magazines is to service wants, needs and desires; I just wonder what men really aspire to. 

Is it Mr Sheen Extreme, Mr Squeaky Clean or something wearing a suit in between?

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel