If IAGT, the name being advertised in Bombay Times these days, sounds cryptic, here are some clues. It stands for 'It's a guy thing'. It is the name for a new men's magazine being launched by the Times of India Group this month. Incidentally, it is also the name of a 'puberty education booklet for boys' published by Kimberly-Clark Corp. It is also the title of a book written by David Deida for 'women'. But what it really means, according to a Yahoo! member page, is this: "It's a guy thing really means… there is no rational thought pattern connected with it, and you have no chance at all of making it logical."
Times' Bhaskar Das (director) sure has a logical spiel for his new magazine. "Our predominant reason to launch it is sociological," he says. "There is a niche emerging out of a social inflection point or a turning point, whatever you may call it." According to him, it is a whole change in the role of today's man, given the assertions of the new-age woman. "Increasingly, women are playing a predominant role, especially working women. Man-woman relationships are getting under trouble. A new man is evolving. But we are not championing any cause," he adds in the same breath. "We are talking about individuals and trying to present their side of the story for a better relationship with the opposite sex."
So, last February, Times put together a magazine that seems to have borrowed something from everyone - Gentleman, Man's World and even the erstwhile Mantra (from the A&M Group). Observers recall it to be more of a test dummy. Starting this month, the Group has decided to launch it on a bi-monthly basis (once every two months). Priced at Rs 30, the 116-pager test issue contained about 23 ads, according to Das. Importantly, "The magazine is paying for its expenses from the first issue," he claims. Asking him how is like running into a wall.
Some answers are forthcoming from Editor Carol Andrade. On the editorial side, the magazine is largely assembled than written. Andrade works with a core team of two editorial people and a few in-house design members to bring out the magazine. Most articles are commissioned from a team of columnists. Ads are sold by one marketing person of date. And the magazine enjoys the terrific advantage of being part of the Group's bouquet of magazines and newspapers.
Cost-management occurs on another front - periodicity. "We had thought of a quarterly, initially, but we realized that less than six issues will not grow our audience relationship properly, and beyond six months will not be commercially viable for us," says Das. And the dummy, for one, does not exhibit any of the gloss associated with, say, Man's World. There's your production-cost management, a la Gentleman.
But coming back to the reason behind the launch, is it backed by some research? Das is dismissive. "In case of mind products, market research has never been a major tool for us (Times)," he says. "Articulated thought is very different from subliminal needs." Which is why the need for the dummy. He is shaping the magazine from the market feedback his team has collected in the last few months. "We received a 60-40 positive-negative feedback," he admits. On the negative scale, Das recalls having received suggestions on the need for more male issues, improvement in picture quality, and a thicker magazine.
Above all, Das is modest about his intent. "We will go slow," he says. "We are trying to develop a niche product. It will take three to four issues to develop an editorial focus." He hopes to sell 10,000 copies of Times' first men's magazine to begin with, before doubling sales in the next issue. But even these numbers, by the standards of this market, seem big today. The category of men's magazines is ridden with disappointments. Only lately has it shown some spark, courtesy newcomer Man's World and a 'new' Gentleman. These magazines believe the market is at a point where it is slated to grow big. Media planners and observers still remain doubtful.
In the next article (to be featured tomorrow), we discuss IAGT's promise against the experiences of India's first 'men's' magazine, Gentleman. We conclude with a deeper look into this market against the backdrop of a restructuring at Gentleman and the completion of one year of Man's World.
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