Old loaded: New loaded

On
this page, Bill Borrows, a member of the original launch team, casts
his eye over the latest Loaded incarnation and laments its ‘lost
principles’.

On the opposite page,
editor Martin Daubney explains the thinking behind the redesign, which
he says has merely updated its indestructible and larger-than-life
attitude for today’s youth

SO I see Loaded has
relaunched. You might be excused for missing the publishing event of
the century, but then the intended media blitz was rather cleverly
scheduled to take place during a week dominated by the funeral of a
Pope, the announcement of a General Election and a royal wedding.

I heard about it, but then how many other atheist republicans who
intend to spoil their ballot paper on 5 May pay attention to the lads
mag market these days? Just me then. And I only do so because I was at
Loaded when it started in 1994 and retain a huge affection for what it
used to be and a sense of loss for what it could have been.

Old
Loaded was for opinion-formers and earlyadopters, for skivers and
high-flyers who shared an attitude rather than a demographic and a
desire for a job in middle management. It didn’t matter whether you
were on your arse and living in a squat in Huddersfield or a
£250k-a-year City boy – the magazine still spoke to you if you wanted
to listen.

There was no science, it was just a beautiful accident. We had absolutely no idea what the hell we were doing.

FHM,
on the other hand, was contrived to appeal to a mass-market audience of
bed-wetters who were still living at home with their mothers but
dreamed of meeting the right girl someday and buying a BMW 5 series.

Among their chino-wearing peer group, buying FHM conferred upon them some kind of outlaw status. Bless.

Think Michael Owen as opposed to Diego Maradona.

Just
like Rolling Stone in the Sixties, Loaded should have grown old with
its readers, rather than continually chasing the pocket money of their
younger brothers who were already reading it in stolen moments. They
should also have launched in the US before Maxim and then FHM. But then
there’s no point looking back…

The “relaunch” or “revamp”, or
whatever else it might be euphemistically termed, is usually the
magazine equivalent of the football chairman’s vote of confidence in
the manager.

This time it could be different – largely because
IPC Media has given Niall McKinney, the marketing director of the
Ignite! division, an extra £400,000 to get the ABCs moving in the right
direction.

There’s even talk of another £1m at some point in the future.

He has, apparently, written letters to key advertisers guaranteeing an upward momentum in sales by the end of the year.

A
necessarily anonymous insider at the company smiles wryly: “That’s
because they’ve only given the magazine until the end of the year.”

But
that is surely nonsense because, with an ABC of 220,057 and the recent
injection of funds, the magazine still generates a fortune for the
company.

Pursuant to that, and if rumours are to be believed, the current issue is also selling so well that there has been a reprint.

McKinney is nothing if not confident and bullish.

As
he told The Guardian recently: “The problem is that the difference
between a men’s monthly in 1995 and 2005 is virtually nil. The content,
navigation, tone and even some of the staff – it’s all exactly the
same. That’s got to be wrong. The way young men are and the way young
men consume media is different – they want more instant gratification.”

He’s right.

Young
men do want more instant gratification (witness the spectacular success
of IPC stablemate Nuts, something McKinney helped get off the ground)n
and yes, if the content and tone of Loaded circa 1995 and the issue
prior to “relaunch” were the same, then it would be “wrong”. But they
were not the same. You might be able to say that about GQ and FHM, but
not Loaded.

Since 1999, Loaded has undergone a fundamental change in terms of content and tone. Navigation, schmavigation.

For the sake of space, let’s leave that to the thin boys and girls with their iPods to discuss.

Old Loaded and its most recent incarnation, issue 133, are as distinct as Old Labour and New Labour.

They
have kept certain pieces of instantly identifiable furniture (for
Loaded, Celebrity Pornalikes and the Rogue page and, for Labour, John
Prescott and the colour red), but both have sold their principles down
the river in the desperate search for sales/votes.

We predicted
this might happen as early as 1997 and came up with a means to avoid
it. There would be a complicated switch at the printers and some
derring-do, but the issue that had already been signed off was going to
be replaced by a new one called ExpLoaded that would cause lawyers and
the men in suits to throw themselves off Kings Reach Tower.

If only we could have been bothered. Doh!

Cover (and Free DVD!)

Old Loaded used to struggle to get all the great stories on the cover. It’s different now, you can hardly find one…

“Lucy and Michelle – Non-stop lady love!” No, I don’t know who they
are either, but they seem to be pretending to be lesbians while wearing
knickers made from lace curtains. An unremarkable photoshoot,
compounded by a lacklustre DVD, shows the cover stars pretending to
sleep and laughing at the banality of it all.

Centrefolds

“28 pages of girls undressing!” This is stamped with the
white-on-black word “‘New!” Presumably, that will be “New!” in the same
way that fire, stones and parrots are “New!”

“Homer Simpson – I love soccer riots.” Adorned with a former Old
Loaded front cover that Matt Groening drew for free just because he
loved the magazine. Sub-Radio Times nonsense. And “soccer”? I hardly
think so.

“I’m
Shagging Twins.” A true-life story and an idea brilliantly stolen from
women’s magazines and daytime TV. It makes sense. Almost an innovation
for the men’s market.

“Loaded hunts radioactive wolves.” An Old
Loaded story that would have been given seven or eight pages, with a
brilliant writer. They gave it four.

Written by the editor.

Elsewhere:

Breath-testing Sunday League footballers is a great idea. Very funny.

Colin Farrell interview. If you are the editor, as opposed to the
journalist, forget a phoner or 10 minutes with him at the Langham
Hilton. Demand at least a day in his company, on set, preferably
somewhere glamourous, or blow him out.

Completely. Otherwise, why bother? Put the colour and the wordcount back in the interviews.

The games section was due a revamp. Better late than never and generally excellent.

The
Real Life Crime/History/War topics are readily devoured by young men. A
two-page spread here is woefully underplayed. Even Nuts does more.

The
“Cor Blimey”, fishing for tramps and pictures of journalism students
jumping through hedges undermines the fact the Old Loaded was put
together by people from Leeds, Birmingham, Belfast, Manchester,
Scotland, London, Wales and everywhere else. It feels very Hoxton now.

SINCE LOADED was launched in 1994, the world has chged seismically and so have the needs of men’s magazine buyers.

The
heroes of yesteryear – your Gazzas, George Bests and the like – are
today’s losers. Blokes don’t want to be like them any more.

How do we know that? We asked them.

We
spent months and a heap of cash talking to our readers to find out what
they wanted from a magazine. Where’s the shame in listening to the
people who pay your wages?

It’s industry legend that Loaded would never have been launched if it had been market researched.

Research was the route of the coward with no gut instinct or balls.

Yet
as awesome as they were, asking the Loaded launch team how to do a
men’s magazine today would be like asking Maggie Thatcher to run the
current Tory party election campaign. It’d be suicide.

The facts
are that these days, if you launch men’s magazines based purely on
instinct, even brilliant editorial brains like James Brown can produce
doomed titles like Jack. Research alone cannot create brilliant
magazines, but it can help tired ones become a whole lot better. Most
of the changes that we have made to Loaded were created before any
research – which was used to validate our design and content decisions.

Here’s
the thinking behind the new Loaded – a magazine that retains the
indestructible, larger-thanlife attitude of the early years, but makes
it live again for 21-year-olds in 2005.

Rogue

I
wanted to do a magazine split into distinct parts and that’s what we
ended up with. There are nine colour-coded sections, which are a doddle
to navigate, which is what our punters want.

Our front section
is a 30-page picnic of all that’s good and true in Loaded’s world. It’s
incredibly visual and fast-paced. You’ve got a split second to stop
readers in their tracks. Bang! Between the eyes.

If you don’t do
that, you’ve failed. This month we’ve played dogs at football,
road-tested a KGB tablet that claims to fool the Breathalyser and
Bolton Wanderers manager Sam Allardyce tells us football is more
important than his wife getting run over by a car.

We end the
section with Loaded’s biggest read, a four-page caper. For example, I
went to Chernobyl and shot radioactive wolves from a helicopter with an
illegally acquired sniper rifle. It’s a proper story, in the classic
Loaded tradition. Last week I sent a writer to be a tramp for three
days in the cushiest place in the world to be homeless, Los Angeles.

Life’s
so sweet on Santa Monica beach they don’t want houses. Jeff slept rough
and survived on his wits alone. Loaded goes the extra yard for our
readers because they deserve the best.

Real life

Real
stories from ordinary blokes doing extraordinary things, like the
Loaded reader who’s shagging twins, or dating a porn star. No men’s mag
has ever done real life before and you have to ask why. It’s the
ultimate “that could be me” read.

Going out

A
section dedicated to the joys of larging it. We travel the length and
breadth of Britain finding all the pubs where the sexiest girls hang
out. Then we tell our readers. This isn’t about pubs with 16th-century
ceilings and cask ales. Where’s all the crumpet?

Where should I
holiday this year to avoid all the muppets and snag a gorgeous girl?
The answers are all in here. It’s proper service journalism.

Centrefolds

Another
men’s mag first: we’ve bundled all our girls into one 34-page section,
an extra level of value we can sell on our cover. Our treatment is
lavish and sumptuous, plus we have real girls in real bedrooms: a
mixture of high-end fantasy stuff and attainable raunch.

Our readers love it: it’s a bullseye. Loaded readers love women and we don’t need to make excuses to have girls in the mix.

The Right Stuff

All
the things young fellas like to spend their cash on, all together in
one neat section. So, we have useful, affordable fashion like how to
look like The Killers on three budgets; there’s grooming, plus gadgets,
both mainstream and cool. We also have genuine style tips from our
cover girls, which is invaluable advice to the young man in his
never-ending quest to pull on a Friday night.

Park Life

Sport
is football for Loaded readers. We can’t keep up with the dailies or
weeklies in terms of topicality, but we can be a whole lot funnier.
Last week we tested the most effective terrace missiles on a work
experience kid. A pig’s head – like the one thrown at Luis Figo –
caused real damage. Plus there’s a great Michael Owen exclusive. He
actually swears.

Roaded

In
stark contrast to fashion, our readers want motoring porn – stuff they
can’t really afford. They don’t want to read about the new boring box
on wheels: they want Aston Martins and £40,000 motorbikes. We actually
thrash all our vehicles: you’ll find no lazy press release bollocks in
Loaded. Last week a mounted copper tried to chase me on the new Ducati
999R superbike. The horse couldn’t keep up.

Arcade

Computer
games are bigger than Hollywood, yet no mainstream magazine treats them
seriously. We get the big games first, and we go and do in real life
what you can do in games, like fire rocket launchers and crash Porsches.

Obsessions

A
section dedicated to the man-only joys of collecting stuff that women
really wouldn’t understand. We’ve got a bloke with a beer can
collection worth half-a-million dollars; Damon Dash shows us his
sneaker collection; plus we’ve found the world’s rarest vintage
T-shirts (including the RUN DMC one worth £10,000) and Dizzee Rascal
talks about Scotch eggs. We’re big on crisps, too. M&S Cheese
Tasters are our current snack of choice.

We haven’t spent the
past six months working on the new Loaded for the benefit of our peers
and critics in WC2 and W1. The success of the relaunch will be measured
by us – and hopefully by Press Gazette – when the next ABCs are
published.

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