Macho mags

Machismo matters fuelled the session about men’s magazines featuring Daniel Samper Ospina, editor of ‘Soho’ and Dylan Jones, who has edited i-D, the Face and now helms GQ, now a worldwide brand, with a very successful GQ launched in China five years ago.

The Nineties saw men’s mags  burst on the scene and they are still doing well, despite the chill economic winds that blow.

Soho’s pages are full of unclothed women while GQ is more discrete.  “So is Soho is close to pornography?” asked Rosie Boycott, chairing the session. “We raise the voltage,” admits Ospina, and over the years they’ve increased the combinations of naked people, one man, one man with two women and so on. But the people getting stripped are are usually celebrities.  Shakira, baring all on the cover, sells a lot of issues.

The shrinking newspaper market in the UK contrasts with the more robust sales of magazines and Jones pointed to the serious journalism they commission at GQ.  They recently had someone attend the six week trial of the two men accused of killing Stephen Lawrence which will result in a 9000 word piece for the May issue.  They’ve also just profiled Ed Milliband, showing how politicans crave such exposure. In ‘Soho’ they tend to eschew politics. We invite politicians to contribute but not on the subject of politics.  It’s more about the personal, about say, President Santos’s private life, about him jogging, about what he does when he’s away from the limelight.

Readers want a warm bath, they want to sink into the magazines, opines Jones.  Newspapers don’t allow this. Neither do they carry as much lifestyle content as they used to, and with news delivered so quickly on the net, it’s hard, says Jones, to see the point of papers.

Ospina thinks they Soho maps the DNA of Colombia.  Boxing champions are profiled. The next issue will be about “the school”. A humourist went back to school, was sent back to school by the mag.  He learned that pupils may have to travel for six hours to get to school there and back.  It’s an issue.

But does Soho make a difference in the country?  Ospina thinks not.

All these magazines carry a lot of ads.  Fashion and glossy adverts are the meat and potatoes of ‘GQ’ and ‘Soho.’  Jones thinks there’s no problem with setting hard reportage next to gloss and fizz, to an advert for a £40,000 car.  It’s a dizzy mix of info and consumerism.

‘Soho’ likes to expose bad practise.  They found the ‘Big Combo’ at Macdonalds had less potatoes than the normal one.

They took white couples and black couples to the five top bars in Bogota and listed the ones who invented excuses not to serve the black ones.

Another time they took a spark plug out of a car and took it to various workshops. If a woman took it in she would be recommended to have loads of work done on the car.  If it was a man they would just change the plug.

And finally the digital age?  How are they responding. asked Boycott.  GQ just launched an app.  All the content is different to the magazine.  It all means extra work.  Jones notes that the app, for instance, will carry an extra 3000 words about the Stephen Lawrence trial.  For ‘Soho’ the content is free, so there are many more naked pictures to enjoy!  Whatever.  Going electronic means more human slog as Jones freely admits knowing his team have lots more work because of multiplying platforms. But it’s the future.