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The January 2019 cover.American Media

American Media and its CEO, David Pecker, have been in the news a lot in recent months, but none of it is related to Men’s Journal, the 26-year-old men’s lifestyle magazine American Media acquired from Wenner Media in June 2017.

Given the politically charged controversy surrounding AMI, Men’s Journal’s lower profile probably suits its senior managers just fine as they slug it out in the competitive men’s-magazine category, boosted by a new infusion of support from AMI. Massive changes in advertising and reader-consumption patterns threaten the relevance of print-media brands, but Men’s Journal, like a surprising number of print-magazine brands, doesn’t seem to fit in the industry’s macro storyline of turmoil and decline. Instead, it offers up a variety of positive statistics.

Every facet of ad revenue—print, digital, programmatic—is up for 2018, with overall advertising growth for the year coming in around 15%, Chief Revenue Officer Jay Gallagher says.

The ratebase of one million is up from 750,000 in 2017, and the frequency is back to monthly from 10 times annually. Both of those changes are partly due to the merger last year of the print editions of Men’s Fitness and Men’s Journal, but the frequency increase means that MJ now is the only brand in the category–including GQ, Esquire, and Men’s Health—that still has a monthly frequency. (GQ is 11x, Men’s Health is 10x and Esquire is eight-times annually.) “AMI has provided the most investment in the 27-year history of the brand,” Gallagher says.

In addition, newsstand sales, which range from 60,000 copies to 70,000 copies on average per month, are up by more than 100% from 2017, Gallagher says. On the digital side, monthly unique visitors are up 232% and video streams are up 346% year over year, he says.

And the November ComScore data has the brand reaching an average household income of $116,000, with an average reader at 36 years old, making Men’s Journal one of the youngest and most affluent titles in the men’s lifestyle space.

Chief Content Officer Greg Emmanuel.American Media

So what’s going on? After all, Men’s Journal, by Gallagher’s and Chief Content Officer Greg Emmanuel’s own admission, was always sort of the fifth magazine in a 10-magazine category. Not anymore. In addition to the increased attention from AMI, Gallagher and Emmanuel suggest it’s a basic but tried-and-true formula in journalism: Find out what you do well, and continue to do it. “It comes down to the well-rounded nature of Men’s Journal,” says Emmanuel, who took over as top editor in July of last year. “If we keep hitting what we love, we’re going to find those readers.”

Unlike other magazines in the category, Emmanuel and Gallagher say, Men’s Journal isn’t about self-improvement, real or implied. Yes, there’s health and fitness coverage. Yes, there’s fashion. “But we’re not preying on the insecurities of men,” Gallagher says. “Men’s Journal is 98% leisure content—he’s already on the right path in life.”

In short, it’s a premium lifestyle brand under the umbrella of experiences. Content runs to adventure travel or gear, or the interesting lives of people like Jason Momoa, Chris Hemsworth, Matthew McConaughey, Henry Cavill or Justin Theroux. Even investigative reporting. And lists—they’re very much still a thing. Everything from road trips to best beers, hotels and safari lodges. “We’re not the rock-hard ab guy, we’re the run-a-faster-mile guy,” Emmanuel says.

At any rate, many indicators suggest that one of AMI’s marquee acquisitions of 2017 (the other was Us Weekly) is breathing new life into the men’s category with an approach that combines fresh energy with the classic formula of men’s magazines from print media’s heyday.

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