Stuff magazine drops cover girls: 'We’re in a post-lads' mags era'

Research showed readers were being alienated by the gratuitous photos

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The Independent Online

The UK’s biggest-selling gadget magazine, Stuff, has dropped cover girls from its front and spreads because the pictures were alienating readers in a post-lads’ mags age.

A new look for the magazine was unveiled on Tuesday, with the conspicuous absence of a scantily dressed woman behind the technology headlines.

Editors originally aimed to attract readers by getting the magazine positioned alongside 90s lads’ mags but focus groups, audience research and cover trials have shown a shift in attitudes.

Instead of drawing readers in, the editor-in-chief, Will Findlater, said there were concerns that cover girls were making readers feel awkward and alienating potential buyers.

He said: “Stuff was launched in 1996 at the peak of the lad mag era.

“Nearly twenty years on - and with tech now an indispensable part of everyday life - our readership has changed.

“The covers used to help our position on the newsstand but our research tells us this is no longer the case.”

The once male-dominated readership is now made up of 40 per cent women.

Circulation of lads' mags has been declining in recent years

“We want the cover to reflect what Stuff is about: the best technology in the world,” Mr Findlater said.

“Our new look will make it easier for us to bring our award-winning coverage… to readers united by their passion for technology - and nothing else.”

Trial covers on Stuff’s April, May and June 2014 issues removed cover girls from 20 per cent of the print run in four UK regions, while normal covers ran everywhere else.

The test demonstrated that readers everywhere far preferred the “non-girl” covers with sales 10 per cent up in April and also boosted in May and June, compared to the regular covers.

Stuff has received many complaints over the years about its use of models, with readers saying it was unrelated to the story or plain sexist.

No More Page Three and other campaigns have shone a spotlight on topless models and sexualised images in the media in recent years and while the Sun has refused to budge, the closure of Nuts earlier this year seemed to signal a sea-change in perceptions.

As Mr Findlater put it: “We’re in a post-lads' mags era.”