It’s been just over a year since AMI’s Men’s Fitness, formerly a collection of bodybuilding tips and ads for “health” supplements of questionable efficacy, was reborn as an upscale men’s lifestyle brand under the leadership of former Men’s Health editor Dave Zinczenko and vp, publisher Patrick Connors, a Condé Nast alum who was hired away from Glamour in late 2012. Now, with solid growth in both ad revenue and circulation, AMI is elevating Connors to brand svp.
Repositioning Men’s Fitness as a worthy competitor to the well-respected (and larger by more than a million copies per month) Men’s Health wasn’t an easy task, but so far, the magazine has remained on an upward trajectory, increasing its circulation by 4 percent and newsstand sales by 20 percent in the second half of 2013, per the Alliance for Audited Media. On the advertising side, ad pages were down 15 percent for the first half of the year, mostly because January and February were combined into a single issue, Conners said, and the magazine purged the supplement business, now considered off-brand, that it previously relied upon. But print revenue increased 22 percent year over year.
Advertisers have taken note of the editorial shift toward more fashion, grooming and other lifestyle content. “When I first arrived here, I asked what fashion business do we get, and the answer was Dr. Scholls,” recalled Connors. Now, he counts brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Movado and Chanel fragrance as advertisers. (Other new non-fashion additions include Mercedes Benz, Grey Goose and Microsoft.) “Men’s is a growth category for most advertisers, especially grooming and fashion,” he added. “They understand that the male consumer today is very much interested in how he looks, and he’s willing to spend more on that.”
Men’s Fitness is also finally getting into live events, an increasingly important revenue stream for many media brands, for the first time. This fall, the magazine will expand its Game Changers franchise, launched last year, into a bicoastal affair with a red-carpet event in Los Angeles and dinner in New York. Sponsors include Stoli vodka, Tommy Hilfiger and Invictus fragrance—three brands that, it’s safe to say, one wouldn’t have associated with the magazine a few years back.
Connors admitted that even a year after the relaunch, it can still be difficult to get advertisers onboard with the “new” Men’s Fitness. “In some meetings, ‘Why are we meeting with you?’ is the first question that comes out of their mouth,” sad Connors. “For 25 years, we were a certain kind of brand, so people have that in their minds, and rightfully so. But I think that as they continue to see the editorial environment, the advertising environment, the cover design, that makes them feel a lot more confident.”