Once-hot laddie mag Maxim is trying to shed its frat-boy image with a head-to-toe makeover that makes its official debut today.
The redesigned magazine—editor in chief Kate Lanphear's first full issue—targets an older, more affluent audience to match the magazine's core readership, which has seen its average age increase by 10 years over the past decade. "Our guy has grown up," said publisher Kevin Martinez. "He's 33, starting to make money and looking at his life differently."
Founded in 1995, the 2 million-circulation title was an early hit but has struggled to maintain relevance as young men turn to the Internet, not the newsstand (where Maxim's circulation fell 33 percent in the first half of last year), to fill their appetite for salacious pics and lifestyle content.
Last year, investor Sardar Biglari bought the title and, in an effort to revitalize the brand, hired Martinez away from his job as publisher of Details to run the magazine's advertising side. Several months later, Bilgari made the surprising announcement that Kate Lanphear, the well-respected style director at T: The New York Times Style Magazine, would become Maxim's new editor in chief.
Both Martinez and Lanphear's high-fashion backgrounds—they worked together at Elle—are apparent in the redesign, which boasts a more refined look and runway-inspired style coverage. "Men are increasingly open to wanting to look really good, to fashion, to grooming, to luxury, so I wanted to bring that to the pages of the magazine with full-page fashion spreads, which we hadn't really done before," said Lanphear.
Lanphear's other major focus was bringing more quality storytelling to Maxim. As a result, readers will see bylines from the likes of Pulitzer-winning journalist Rick Bragg, novelist Andre Dubus III and Rolling Stone writer Jenny Eliscu. Even content that might seem juvenile actually has a grown-up twist: An article by professional pick-up artist Neil Strauss focuses not on how to attract women, but on going to rehab for sex addition after falling in love with his now-wife.
Speaking of sex, perhaps the most noticeable difference in the new Maxim is its (relatively) more tasteful treatment of female subjects. On the cover, newsstand browsers will see only a close-up of model Candice Swanepoel's face—no hint of cleavage to be found. Inside the magazine, there's still plenty of eye candy, but it's less "dorm-room poster" than before.
"I want to challenge the idea of what is sexy, and show that there are so many different ways to celebrate women," said Lanphear. "I don't want to shy away from 'sexy'—that's an essential part of the Maxim brand—but I think we've evolved since the magazine was first started, and our ideas about sexiness are not so simple or cliché."
The changes have had a positive effect on the magazine's advertising, which now includes high-end brands like Prada, Armani, Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein and Bloomingdale's. The March issue is up 30 pages—a 289 percent increase—from a year ago.
"We're reaching a whole new audience that these [advertisers] knew was out there, but because the brand that was speaking to them wasn't up to snuff, they kind of shied away from it," said Martinez. "Now, we're bringing it up to their expectations."