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The Independent Online
The continuing rise in the sales of men's magazines in the last two years has been based largely on the enlargement of one particular part of a man's anatomy. GQ Active, the new sports and health magazine, launched this month with the intention of helping them enlarge other areas, although it, too, put a girl in an unzipped wet suit on the front cover in tacit acknowledgement that sex always sells. The cover picture was originally to have been a male cyclist, but was changed at the last minute.

Conde Nast, publisher of the magazine, intends to exploit men's increased interest in sport, fitness and health. It is also seeking to lever its GQ brand name into new areas to get a piece of the men's magazine action. Although GQ's sales have risen to an all-time high, it has still been resolutely outperformed by the more risque Loaded and FHM.

An increased interest in sport and fitness is not just the stuff of yuppies in shampoo ads. Since 1990 participation in swimming has increased by 32 per cent, in martial arts by 78 per cent, in tennis by 10 per cent, in sailing by 50 per cent and in walking by 40 per cent.

It is estimated by the research company On Line Leisure that there are currently 1,100 private gyms in the UK with memberships of more than 500 people, almost all of which have opened since 1990. At the same time admissions to leisure centres has increased by 12 per cent, and the number of centres has increased by 15 per cent.

But GQ Active will not survive just on an interest in sport. Glossy monthly magazines take far more of their revenue from selling pages of advertising than the cover price. And this is where the really interesting statistics lie.

Consumers as a whole are spending 31 per cent or pounds 1bn, more on sports, sports goods, clothing and games than in 1985. It now represents a pounds 4.2bn market, and that creates a lot of advertising. Even more tempting for Conde Nast, the toiletries and perfume sector has increased in value during that time (by almost 60 per cent since 1985) to reach pounds 6.1bn.

The sports and vanity markets are new, especially in the male sector, so manufacturers are having to spend a disproportionate amount of money on advertising to try to establish new brand names and new brand values - which is where a magazine comes in.

In the year between 1995 and 1996 there was been a 24 per cent increase in advertising on sports related products - it is now worth pounds 34m.

The only problem for Conde Nast is that it is not the first to think of the idea. In the last three years 14 sports magazines have launched including market leader Men's Health and EMAP has just acquired the ailing XL and is giving it the FHM treatment. Some of the football magazines that launched following 442's success two years ago have already closed and success is not guaranteed just because a market is growingn

Paul McCann