MPH, American Media's gassed-up version of a car-enthusiast magazine, hits newsstands this month. It aims to attract younger readers than the traditional automotive publications.
MPH Editor in Chief Eddie Alterman has recruited a staff of car-magazine veterans. He says they kept "proposing stories to our former places of employment. And they weren't really fitting."
"Like, we wanted to do this thing about squirrels, and if they would ever evolve to avoid cars," Alterman explains.
The debut issue of MPH lacks a feature on squirrel evolution. But a cheesecake shot of a "backseat Betty" appears alongside the car specifications, photos and reviews. The magazine identifies her as Anastasia, a Moldavian postal worker and model.
Another article reports the phenomenon of Europe's "park-in/love-ins." A sidebar begins: "Thanks to Italy's very liberal sex-in-cars policy …"
"The existing car magazines are sort of buyers' guides," says Alterman, 32, a former senior editor of Primedia's Automobile. "They do that to the exclusion of a lot of stuff happening in cars and car culture."
Traditional consumer automobile magazines include titles such as Motor Trend, Automobile, Road & Track, Car and Driver, and Automotive News' sister publication AutoWeek.
MPH's cover identifies its title as an acronym for "maximum performance and horsepower."
MPH is American Media's second attempt at an auto magazine. The first, Auto World Weekly, launched in 2000 and ceased publication last year.
American Media CEO David Pecker says MPH will pursue the readers of young men's lifestyle magazines - or "lad magazines" - such as FHM and Maxim.
The company will distribute 300,000 copies of the debut issue. It projects an initial circulation of 100,000.
A full-color advertising page in the monthly magazine costs $11,500.
Pecker says the typical car magazine gets 80 percent of its advertising from automotive-related categories.
The long-term goal of MPH is to get one-half of its advertising volume from nonautomotive sources, Pecker adds.
The magazine "should turn profitable" within two years, he says.
The first issue of MPH pans the 2005 Ford Mustang. When the magazine publishes such poor reviews, it will allow automakers' public relations departments to craft rebuttals for print, Alterman says.
Guardians of the traditional division between advertising and editorial content in magazines may not appreciate that approach, but Alterman shrugs off such concerns.
Says Alterman: "It provides both sides of the story to a readership very aware of the separation between what the PR flack says and what we say."