Details magazine is shedding its abrasive image

August 20, 1991|By N.Y. Times News Service

These days, Details magazine is trying to steer clear of articles on heavy petting, facts about sexual organs and how to make appropriate conversation during sex.

Abrasive photographs, like one of an electric chair victim's scorched scalp, have also been banned.

The magazine's cover no longer shows smirking male models, but instead features celebrities like David Bowie and Keanu Reeves.

Details will observe its first anniversary as a men's magazine next month, having evolved in the last year from a confrontational publication into a more toned-down one with a heavy emphasis on fashion and rock 'n' roll. Its September issue includes interviews with Bowie and Ron Reagan, as well as an article about deprogramming cult members and a profile of Candida Royale, a producer of erotic films.

The change, publishing executives say, has enabled the Conde Nast magazine to attract advertisers and distributors who were taken aback by its first attempts to develop an editorial mix for men 18 to 34 years old.

"We had to cut back some of the extremes, but it has worked," said Mitchell Fox, Detail's publisher. "We've positioned ourselves as the magazine for the 20-something crowd. They haven't had a magazine to call their own; this has a post-Yuppie sensibility."

In January, he said, the magazine would raise its advertising rate base by 40 percent, to 175,000 circulation from 125,000. Advertising pages have increased to 237.8 pages for the second half of 1991, from 137.5 in the first half. But since Conde Nast is privately owned, there is no way to know how this translates into revenues.

In addition, distributors that had removed the magazines from their shelves are carrying it once again.

Despite its recent gains, advertising and publishing executives remain divided about whether there is a market for such a magazine.

Details, established in 1982, initially covered Manhattan's downtown scene, with regular columns on clubs and avant-garde fashion. A few years after Conde Nast bought the magazine in 1988, the company decided to transform Details into a men's magazine. At the time, many publishers were considering such ventures, but Details is one of the few new men's magazines to have survived.

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