Inside Maxim’s Redesign: Frat-Boy Magazine Graduates

Maxim CoverMaxim is finally shedding its frat-boy image and moving on to something more sophisticated. Gone are the days when a guy had to lie when saying, “I get the magazine for the articles.” Maxim’s top-to-bottom redesign – which debuted today – is targeting an older, more affluent male.

Maxim recognized that their readership’s average age was increasing by one year at a time over the past decade. Maxim’s readership was growing up with the magazine, the typical reader is now in his early thirties, starting to make some money, and looking at his life differently than when he did when he was in his 20s. Rather than work hard to gain a new readership from the younger demographic, Maxim has decided to adapt to the readers they already have in their back pockets.

The men’s magazine was founded in 1995, and saw early success. The 2 million-circulation magazine struggled to maintain their initial success, though, with young men turning to the Internet as their source for “manly content.” The first half of 2014 saw the magazines largest drop in circulation, falling 33 percent. The magazine recognized they had a problem and needed to adapt to survive. Enter Maxim’s potential savior: investor Sardar Biglari.

Sardar Biglari bought Maxim in the second half of 2014, and is making major changes to the magazine’s structure and image. Biglari brought in Kevin Martinez from Details to run Maxim’s advertising. Biglary also brought in the well-respected style director from T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Kate Lanphear, as Maxim’s new editor in chief. Lanphear and Martinez have worked together in the past at Elle magazine. Both magazine professionals have high-fashion backgrounds, and it is apparent in the more refined look presented in Maxim’s redesign.

Lanphear stated, “Men are increasingly open to wanting to look really good, to fashion, grooming, to luxury, so I wanted to bring that to the pages of the magazine with full-page fashion spreads, which we hadn’t really done before.” In addition to more visually appealing and editorial fashion spreads, Maxim’s redesign will have a greater focus on quality storytelling. Readers will get the opportunity to read bylines from Pulitzer-winning journalists and novelists, as well as entertainment moguls such as writers from Rolling Stone.

Maxim’s redesign will also tone down, or class-up, their previously primary subject matter of females. The new cover photo features a beauty-shot of a beautiful woman, not a bit of cleavage. Granted, the interior of the magazine will still feature plenty of male-centric imagery, but it will be presented in an elevated manner. Lanphear says she still wants to keep the magazine “sexy,” but she wants to push what the idea of “sexy” means. The magazine is supposed to celebrate women, and the many different ways “sexy” can be portrayed.

Advertisers are responding positively to the magazine’s redesign. High-end advertisers like Prada, Marc Jacobs, Bloomingdale’s, Armani, and Calvin Klein helped beef up the magazine to 30 pages, which is a 289 percent increase over last year.

Time will tell if the redesign will be enough to keep the magazine afloat. It would also be necessary for the magazine to amp up its digital presence if it wanted to stand the test of time. You can read Editor-in-Chief, Kate Lanphear’s introduction of the new Maxim, here.

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