Commentary

Men's Magazines Face Another Midlife Crisis

Men's magazines have had more midlife crises than an alcoholic stockbroker being served with divorce papers for the fourth time.
Their latest so-called crisis comes from a growing public awareness of "toxic masculinity" and changing attitudes about gender fluidity that redefine what being a man means. The viability of publications like Esquire, Playboy, GQ and Maxim has become the subject of recent debate, as if these magazines ever had broad appeal.
The idea of a men's magazine is “hopelessly passé as a private gentlemen’s club,” according to a recent article in City Journal, the magazine published by the Manhattan Institute, a free-market think tank. In his 5,000-word chronicle of men's publications, journalist Brian Patrick Eha concluded that "as magazines, they are dying or dead -- and the dead do not improve."

The New York Times followed with own analysis of the "identity crisis" confronting the boys' club of glossy publishing. Alex Williams, a reporter for the newspaper's Style section, offered a more optimistic assessment of the state of men's publishing. He pointed to current circulation numbers for GQ and Esquire that indicate the publications are a "long, long way from life support."
Having seen men's magazines survive past crises and cultural shifts, I don't see any reason why the changing cultural attitudes will prevent them from living to see another day.

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For one thing, men's titles always catered to a small group of educated elites whose very act of reading a magazine separates them from most other men. As long as magazines adapt to their tastes, they will survive.

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