From a cold start on April Fool's Day of 1997, a small gang of fools including myself created the most successful general interest men's magazine the world has ever seen, before or since. At its height, we were selling 2.7 million copies, bigger than GQ, Esquire, Men's Health, and a lot of other titles combined, and we were making 100 million+ a year in ad revenue, and won Ad Age's Magazine of the Year in 2002. Check it out.
Maxim was a breath of fresh air in what was a very grim "politically correct" environment. It celebrated the things men loved: women, cars, beer, sports, movies, and women. Did I say women twice? I did. Maxim's sexy newsstand presentation really hit home with guys across the country and around the world. Advertisers saw we were reaching their best demographic.
At the height of our success we had a development deal with New Line Cinema, a books division, a Sirius radio channel, multiple TV shows. Through Maxim I got to be a writer for the Drew Carey Show, go on junkets to Portugal, London, Jamaica, and more, and meet and work with some of the finest writers, designers, photographers and photo editors, and marketing folks in the world. Oh, and a couple of lingerie shoots as well.
Stuff began as a section in Maxim, and we spun it off as its own title in 1999. Nominally about gear, it was really about doing another flavor of Maxim. (Our president Steve Colvin used to say it was like a second band in the same musical genre—To outsiders they might sound the same, but to anyone in the know they were unique.) Stuff provided a lower-cost alternative to advertisers priced out by Maxim's 100k+ open page rate, and gave us a bulwark against the mightily-feared FHM magazine, which was killing it in mother England, and which we knew was coming to the US. The gambit (and a lot of hard work on our side) succeeded: Stuff quickly rose to became the #2 title, and FHM never was able to catch up, folding up its tent in 2006.
Maxim's success led to all kinds of other ventures—almost too many to list. There was a books division, a deal with New Line Cinema to evaluate scripts, a radio channel with Sirius Radio, and so much more, from the to the ridiculous (hair color for men, anyone?) to the sublime (a man-cave at Bloomingdale's). We created other magazine spinoffs as well, including Maxim Fashion, Maxim Goes to the Movies, The Best of Maxim, and even Maxim for Kids (OK, that never quite made it to the newsstands...the lawyers pulled us back from the ledge on that one.)
The Maxim party became legendary: Every movie, music, TV and sports star of the day were clamoring to get into our two big tentpoles: the Super Bowl Party and the Hot 100 Party celebrating the sexiest women of the year in the heat of summer, events with multimillion dollar budgets and national and international press coverage.
All in it was a wonderful eight year experience, and one of the most successful brand launches in history—a success on every single front.