After reading Julie’s recent post on new men’s magazine Buck, I felt compelled to pick up a copy. Emblazoned with the title in a font reminiscent of a million UCLA hoodies and t-shirts seen around the UK recently, it is accompanied by a primary colour palate and a student lookey-likey on the front cover.
These facts conspired to convince me that I was actually looking at the latest copy of my old university’s monthly mag. Inside, contrastingly, we are bombarded with adverts for high-end, aspirational brands. The back page for example carries an advert for Bombay Sapphire; the drink of choice for much of Britain’s upper-crust if there is no Tanqueray available.
I was at this stage wondering who Buck was primarily aimed at. It concerns itself solely with the beautifully alliterative ‘food, furniture and fashion’. I presumed that due to this content it would be the affluent, fashion conscious city-dweller, in his mid-to-late twenties or early thirties. Indeed you would need a fair amount of disposable income to purchase most of what is advertised. The product reviews are along the same lines; £45 moisturizing balm anyone? £423.50 Cube lamp? Lemon and Coriander deodorant?
In my opinion the only place lemon and coriander should be combined is in a Thai curry. Despite my misgivings, apparently Buck is aimed at me; the 20 year old male. Ok, I’m 21, but let’s not get pedantic here. All was rather baffling, as very little appealed to me.
Things made a little more sense when I considered the fate of the current generation of men’s lifestyle mags, or as they have been known since the nineties; the lad’s mag. No matter whether you look to the top of the scale (GQ and Esquire) or at the bottom (Loaded, Zoo) they all follow essentially the same formula of cars, interviews, reviews, columns, gadgets, the odd recipe and a few nipples, and they define their originality and message by simply offering these joys in varying amounts and contexts.
But declining sales figures across the board for men’s lifestyle magazines have shown that this formula is no longer working. It is not because men’s base desires are changing. Rather, that due to the new environment of media saturation and the ubiquitousness of internet access, we don’t have to lug around a 400 page magazine, and wait a month for the pleasure.
Nearly anything you would find in a mag you can get on the net, and most people now have a full web browser on their mobile phones. Perhaps based on this realisation and the fact that a new generation of more discerning consumers expect a magazine to offer something more than a monthly summary of manliness, Buck’s limited, more focused remit, could be the way forward.
This bold new direction is admirable, but still, if people of my age – apparently its core demographic – can’t relate to the magazine, is it doomed to failure? Not necessarily. Apart from the terrible front cover, this magazine would be damn good coffee table fodder. It would fit in, opened at a random page, in a Harley Street waiting room or the First Class airport lounge I used to work in. It might not sell like hot cakes at a local newsagent, but I bet within a year Buck has a hell of a lot of subscribers, even if they are companies and not individuals.
My summary? I wouldn’t buy Buck to read something cool, but I could always buy Buck to look cool.