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Last Updated: Friday, 30 May, 2003, 11:08 GMT 12:08 UK
From babes to babies
By Jonathan Duffy
BBC News Online

In the 90s it was Loaded and FHM that became the street bibles for Britain's young men. But with sales of lad mags in decline, are dad mags the new cultural bibles?

If there's one thing that doesn't sit well with baby sick it's a 200 designer T-shirt. But that's not a view shared by the creators of a new magazine aimed exclusively at fathers.

FQ Magazine is the second so-called "dad mag" to hit the streets in as many months, featuring a previously unheard of mix of male fashion shoots and articles about parenting.

Along with Dad magazine, which launched in April under former Esquire and Arena editor Peter Howarth, it is breaking new ground by reaching out to a market that has long been cold-shouldered at the newsstands.

Men's lifestyle magazines have always been rocky ground for publishing houses. But the astonishing success of lads mags like FHM and Loaded in the 1990s proved that magazines could be a useful barometer of cultural trends among young men.

Once you become a dad you don't immediately have to join the cardigan brigade
Damion Queva, FQ magazine
It's still debated as to whether the lad spawned the mag or vice versa.

In the noughties however, lads mags have struggled to maintain their athletic performance, and sales have dipped.

So does the release of two new magazines aimed at fathers mean this is the decade of the dad mag?

Damion Queva, the publisher behind FQ, believes it's simply a natural progression for readers - after all, yesterday's lad is today's dad.

"We are trying to say that once you become a dad, you don't immediately have to join the cardigan brigade," says Queva.

Fun and games

"FQ is about taking the wit and style of lad mags and applying them in a different context. For example, we can get the gadgetry angle in there by lining up different baby buggies and comparing the merits of them.

Mums are not alone in having lots to juggle
"Being a dad is a great excuse to go out and buy a new Playstation or a Scaletrix."

The ultimate poster boy for this target market is David Beckham, the one-time irascible footballing upstart who has matured into a paragon of cool while emerging as a dutiful father.

So it's no surprise that both FQ and Dad feature Beckham in their launch issues, the former promoting him heavily on the front cover.

The first issues of both magazines also abide strictly by the rule that any magazine hoping to make an impact on the shelves should display the word "sex" prominently on the front.

Oddly though, both go in for a bit of taboo-busting by looking at sex during pregnancy - "what you've always wanted to know but never dared to ask".

Behind closed doors

Editor of Dad magazine Jack O'Sullivan believes fatherhood is undergoing a revolution, with fathers feeling they can publicly embrace their parenting role for the first time.

Man pushing a pram
Men have not always been at ease with the image of fathering
"Until now fatherhood has always been a very private activity. While motherhood is collective and public - mothers will get together and discuss their children - fathers have always done their fathering behind closed doors."

"Now, with the help of people like Beckham, fathers are feeling more confident about displaying their love and playing with their children."

He sees the magazine as a means for helping this process, by being a forum for ideas and discussion.

"There are 22 million men of fathering age in Britain today but you wouldn't know it to look at the newsstands. It goes unrecognised."

Ads and dads

It's too early too say whether dad mags are the next big thing or not, but Ian Darby, media editor of Campaign, is impressed by the idea at least.

Mother and Baby
Parenting mags are dominated by the 'mother and baby' model
"It's not the sort of thing you are going to subscribe to, but if you think there are a quarter of a million new dads a year, you only need them to buy one or two issues to make the idea work."

Traditionally, the older end of the men's magazine market has been perilous - a fact illustrated by the fate of two recent "grown up" lad mags Later and Mondo. Both folded shortly after launch.

Crucially however, for the magazine market, where advertising revenue is everything, Darby thinks it presents a strong proposition.

"Advertisers know that men at this life stage are about to go out and spend money, on baby things.

"I think they could be on to something."

Jack the mag hits target
28 Aug 02  |  Business
Lads' reading matter
21 Aug 00  |  UK News

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