Men's magazines all the rage in China

Liaoning native Li Chao feels FHM and Esquire have improved his dressing -and his appeal to women. There are abaout 20 titles catering to China's men.

When Mr Chen Chentu bought the inaugural issue of China's FHM magazine in 2004, he had to hide the magazine from his parents lest they scold him.

He had never seen a magazine with a cover of a sexily clad woman, and thought that Playboy magazine had arrived in China.

"I found out I was wrong, but I liked what I read in the magazine. The articles were witty and it gave practical fashion and lifestyle tips for men," says Mr Chen, 29, an events planner. Since then, the Fujian native has bought every one of FHM's 105 issues and now even helps run its reader groups nationwide.

Ardent supporters like Mr Chen - young, urban males with rising incomes and growing aspirations for the finer things in life - have fuelled a dramatic expansion of men's magazines in China over the last 20 years.

The first male-oriented publication began here in 1993 with the launch of Shishang Xiansheng (loosely translated as Mr Fashionable) as a supplement to a women's magazine under the Trends Group media conglomerate.

In 1997, the pull-out became a stand-alone publication. Two years later, it shared copyright with American title Esquire, and remained the only men's magazine here till 2000 when Da Dushi (Metropolis) was launched.

Between 2000 and 2007, China saw a mushrooming of men's magazines, with 10 titles entering the market. Now, there are around 20 monthly titles catering to China's men, in a wide range of areas such as health, fashion and lifestyle.

Men's magazines sell a total of one million copies yearly - still just 2 per cent of the industry, indicating the potential for growth. By comparison, women's magazines account for about 12 per cent.

Overall, readership has been expanding by 20 per cent each year, although there has been a slight drop in circulation in recent years, says Mr Lei Hongsheng, a senior analyst at consulting group Qianinfo.

Most are joint ventures with foreign titles such as Esquire, FHM (Nan Ren Zhuang in Mandarin), Leon (Nan Ren Fen Shang), and GQ (Zhi Zu) under a "copyright-cooperation" model.

Foreign investors are barred from the advertising and publishing industry here unless they set up joint ventures with local partners, who must own not less than 51 per cent of the investments and hold the publishing permits.

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