BOSTON — THE second issue of Men's Journal hits newsstands today and takes another crack at the unpredictable men's magazine market.
Although Americans have been reading magazines for 250 years, men have been one of the hardest audiences to nail down. But 25 years after he hit a home run with Rolling Stone magazine, publisher Jann Wenner is gambling on the success of Men's Journal. He hopes to pick up his audience where Rolling Stone deposited it - somewhere in middle age.
As men get a little bit older, what are they looking for in life?
The editors of the fledgling magazine, launched in April, think there is a niche somewhere between the raucous, raw energy of Details magazine and the genteel, gentrified Gentlemen's Quarterly.
Magazines aimed at men have fared poorly in recent years. Advertisers often have to resort to narrow titles such as Skiing and Yachting to reach male readers. Times have been tough for magazines in general. Circulation and advertising sales have been soft for the whole market, though some new arrivals have muscled their way in, knocking off a few of the weaker contenders.
Last month, high-gloss M magazine bowed out. Its editors complained that too many competitors were vying for the attention of a dwindling number of well-to-do male urban sophisticates. Fewer yuppies, apparently, choose to spend their discretionary income on designer watches and suits. And readers obviously did not connect with M's confident tag line - "What modern men respond to."
Other casualties in this category include Men's Life (which survived only its premiere issue in 1990) and Smart (which targeted the hip youth crowd but only lasted for two years after its 1988 launch).
Men's Journal seems to be trying to carve out new territory for its readers by defining active lifestyles that are achievable. In this recession year, sober attitudes are requisite; greed is definitely out.
So what's left if men are not supposed to get excited about cars and clothes anymore? According to editor John Rasmus (former editor of Outside Magazine), the field is wide open. Sports, travel, and fitness are fine, but no spectators please. Participation is the watchword. The activities suggested in Men's Journal take a bit of old-fashioned derring-do.
The first issue led off with "Kayaking the Great Coasts." "The Sporting Caribbean" heads up issue No. 2. From its cover, the magazine proclaims that motorcycling, cross-country skiing, and "Exploring Alaska's Secret Wilderness" will fill the empty moments in a man's life.
A warning to aficionados of the so-called men's movement: This magazine is not intended for those who want to get in touch with their feelings. No beating drums. No sweating and crying around a campfire. But that's just fine with most guys.
As a strapping new entry into the men's magazine field, the journal shows promise. It allows plenty of room for hard-driving, success-oriented men to have fun without fostering too much conspicuous consumption.
But fashion does have a valid place. And Men's Journal goes out of its way to prove it. For a travel/ fashion spread in the first issue, the whole crew trekked to Lake Powell in the wild and craggy outback of southern Utah. The models' clothes suggest relatively straightforward, outdoor-oriented fashion.
In addition to fashion, the editors dish out plenty of decent "If you go" advice. After taking a week-long float on Lake Powell myself, I have to admit that their recommendations on this hard-to-locate wilderness destination hold up well.
Men's Journal will be published bimonthly after this issue until next September when it will become a monthly, a cautious approach that is becoming a fixture of magazine launches.
If Men's Journal continues to find a middle road between the abrasiveness of youth-oriented publications and the predictable stuffiness of the established upscale men's fashion magazines, it may thrive in its second year.
That is, if tempered indulgence turns out to be the right attitude for 1993.