In 2007 ShortList Media was a single title magazine company launching into a men’s market dominated by downmarket, declining “lads mags”.
The publisher was also attempting to combine upmarket editorial values with a new free distribution model designed to get a magazine regularly into the hands of men via placements in transport hubs, gyms, retailers, City institutions and other sites.
It seemed an unlikely recipe for success.
Fast forward to 2014 and ShortList is one of the UK magazine industry’s highest profile growth stories. It has an expected £20m of annual revenues and a premium portfolio spanning print and digital formats for both sexes.
The eponymous ShortList magazine, with its mixture of features on sport, films, grooming and politics aimed at “men with more than one thing on their minds”, has become the UK men’s market leader.
In the first half of 2013, the print title had an average audited circulation of more than 530,000 copies a week, with an audience also accessing content via smartphones and tablets (see below)
According to the company’s own research, the magazine’s readers are predominantly ABC1, aged 25-44 and with little propensity to read other men’s magazines.
In addition to ShortList and the women’s magazine, Stylist, and their accompanying websites, ShortList.com and Stylist.co.uk, the company also owns the daily emails, Emerald Street and Mr Hyde, the fashion biannual, ShortList MODE, and a glossy fashion digital brand, Never Underdressed.
Profits were just under £1m in the year to the end of August 2012.
ShortList Media, which is a 50/50 joint venture partnership between the executive management team and DC Thomson, publisher of the Beano, has expanded to more than 150 staff.
The company is also investing in international growth. In April 2013 ShortList Media launched Stylist in France in a 50/50 JV with Groupe Marie Claire, the publisher of Marie Claire magazine.
The company claims that it will be the first free premium magazine of its kind in France, with 400,000 copies to be distributed in cities including Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux and Strasbourg.
Stylist France is positioned as an "innovative blend of British creativity and French sophistication".
"We're confident that this is a brand that can thrive in many markets across the world," said Mike Soutar, co-founder and chief executive of Shortlist Media.
Meanwhile, its digital title, Never Underdressed, is focusing on the platform potential of smartphones and tablet computers.
The free title competes with UK market leaders Elle, Vogue and Marie Claire in the crowded women's glossy market.
Lucy Alexander, the ex-digital ad director of Elle and the publisher of Never Underdressed, said: "Never Underdressed is a beautiful, glossy, luxury fashion title for the digital era.
“We are thrilled to bring a range of innovative, immersive new advertising formats that extend across desktop, tablet and mobile and allow brands to deliver consistent, high-impact campaigns across all platforms simultaneously."