Playboy used to be the king of men's magazines. It was the most coveted magazine, openly or secretly, among men of all ages. The centerfolds and the Playboy mystique were the stuff of legend. That is no longer the case with the shifting mentality of today's man and the resultant success of Maxim, Stuff, FHM, Razor and King. Playboy has, in fact, become irrelevant to this generation of men.
"Can you imagine a 20-year-old opening the magazine and, on page 10 every month, there's a picture of a 77-year-old man, popping Viagra, surrounded by young blond women?" says Samir Husni, a journalism professor at the University of Mississippi.
Playboy does not deliver what today's guy is looking for. It delivers an anachronistic view of men, women, society, and sex. The lad magazines do a much better job of delivering on men's needs.
"They're more in touch with our generation. They write articles about cool places and how to pick up girls and stuff," says Abraham Wilson, 22, a computer-science major at the University of Central Florida. "Maxim will go to colleges and ask college students questions. I don't see Playboy doing that."
The lack of nudity in lad magazines has actually helped the growth of the category allowing the magazine to be displayed in magazine racks rather than behind the counter and because the magazine can be read fairly guilt-free.
"What Maxim and Stuff did was take the guilt out of the pleasure," says Husni. "You don't feel guilty looking at those magazines. And you don't have to worry if your girlfriend is coming into the room."
Of course, the need to show nudity in a magazine is almost unnecessary today. All the nudity a guy wants is now online, mostly for free. Besides, women are actually sexier in many cases with their clothes on rather than off. And that's exactly what lad books give guys. It's a tease and the tease is sometimes more fun then the delivery.
For those who claim these magazines are dumbing down society and portraying women as sex objects, you're right. With the exclusion of Razor, most of these magazines do just that. Men do look at women as sex objects sometimes or at least mythical beings they'd like to fantasize about. And so the media cater to this. It's not exactly right but when you break it down, men just think about and apparently need sex more than women. That need for sex is an integral physiological part of every man. Men are programmed that way. At the most basic level, if men were not easily aroused achieving that certain "reaction", then procreation would grind to a halt. It's the result of basic, pre-historic programming and we are stuck with it.
Aside from the sex angle, the lad category simply speaks in the language of today's man. Playboy speaks in a language that is foreign to any guy under 40. And that is translating into slumping sales and circulation for Playboy. Maxim's circulation has raced to 2.5 million just shy of Playboy's 3.2 million. FHM and Stuff hover around one million. Razor is growing at 234,000 and King comes in at 150,000.
By comparison to male magazines that have been around longer, GQ has a circulation of 803,000 and Details has a circulation of 414,000. Both have recently redesigned in an effort to combat the new magazines. The cultures and preferences of generations change and media that wish to survive, need to cater to those changes.