ALPHA MALE: Quality, it seems, doesn't always come at a price. A British men's magazine set to launch in September won't have an aspirational cover price — instead, it will be distributed free in major U.K. cities. The new title, which has the working name of Alpha One, is zeroing in on 18- to 35-year-olds looking for alternatives to low-brow men's weeklies such as Zoo and Nuts.
"We are going to be liberated from the newsstand, which bullies magazines into being a bit homogenous, [competing] with fluorescent cover panels and scantily clad people," said Mike Soutar, the new magazine's founder and chief executive. "We'll be able to create covers with real punch...and guarantee to advertisers that we'll step around the congested newsstand."
Soutar, former editorial director of IPC, former editor in chief of British FHM and the launch editor of Maxim in the U.S., said Alpha One will feature a mix of news, music, film, sports, business and style. It will have an initial print run of 500,000 copies. The backers include Stephen Marks, owner of French Connection; film producer Matthew Vaughn, and Scottish publishing group DC Thompson, who collectively are reported to have raised a total of about $14 million to fund the launch. Soutar's company Crash Test Media is developing the magazine and an as-yet-unnamed company created by Soutar and the backers will publish it.
While advertisers haven't been confirmed, Soutar of course claimed initial reaction has been positive. "They can really see the logic [in the brand] — it's a valuable target audience that's difficult to reach at scale," he said, adding a Web site also will be introduced.
Soutar believes young consumers don't view free media as any less valuable than paid-for media. "They're used to going online, and Metro [a free London newspaper] has blazed a trail," he said. At IPC, part of Time Inc., Soutar also oversaw the launch of Nuts, which he now believes hits a younger demographic than Alpha One's target. "Nuts serves the adolescent end of the market very well," he said. "But aspirational, upmarket men between 18 and 35 have become alienated by magazines like it — we know from research that they're embarrassed to be seen with those titles in public. We believe that we are tapping into a significant, unserved need." — Nina Jones