Media Analysis: Loaded refires to woo lost readers

The relaunched Loaded is on the shelves with new sections and fresh intent to reclaim iconic status. Richard Cann tracks the lads' mag's battle strategy.

Loaded, the original lads' magazine, has been relaunched (not simply redesigned) insists publisher IPC, as it endeavours to turn around ever-dwindling sales.

From the halcyon days of the late 1990s when circulation topped 400,000, Loaded has fallen on hard times. The last ABC figures showed the men's bible languishing behind FHM, Maxim and even Men's Health, with sales of just 220,057.

Editor Martin Daubney claims, however, that signs are good for the new Loaded - demand has forced a reprint of the latest issue while it is still on the shelf, the first time that has happened in five years.

The most striking change sees the magazine split into eight distinct sections, including buyer's guide The Right Stuff, featuring all the gadgets, clothes, toys and robotic chimpanzees that a 16 to 30-year-old could want.

Rogue - snippets of news, pictures, interviews and features - has been expanded, and Daubney calls on PROs to help fill the extra ten pages here.

Call for PRO input

Loaded, with its bite-sized, picture-led editorial cries out for PR involvement.

'Just bombard us with ideas - I want to hear about anything with a bit of a twist,' says Daubney. 'We've got no extra staff to do this, I've even mucked in and written half of it myself.'

Bucking the trend of featuring models decked out in the wares of top-end designers, Daubney says Loaded will focus on fashion that men actually wear - high-street brands: 'With fashion, if you give (readers) Gucci they'll say it's bollocks. They're mad for things like iPods and are quite willing to blow a week's wages on a gadget, but they're still wearing £5 T-shirts from H&M.'

Harvard PR account director Ben Evetts says: 'Loaded has taken on the highly successful "steal their style" format that Heat and others have deployed so successfully in the women's market. You don't get the length of article in Loaded that you get in metrosexual titles such as GQ. It's a very visual magazine - there is not much space to give detailed explanations of the product.'

Technology is more of an attraction than fashion for Loaded readers, but the magazine's glance-like feel dictates Evetts' approach to pitching ideas. He says visual editorial ideas - such as the top ten things to take on a stag trip (in May's relaunch issue) - are more important than developing a story to go with featured products.

Aspiration does rear its head in areas outside fashion, says Daubney of Loaded's desire to attract top-end motoring brands to the new Roaded section. In the June issue Daubney test rides the Ducati 999R, which at £20,000 is out of reach for many readers. 'What readers want is motoring pornography,' he counters.

An important feature of the revamped magazine is that celebrity interviews have been moved onto the front pages. Daubney says access is what he is looking for from PROs. 'We want to make it look like we're mates with the celebrity,' he explains. 'We want a level of access that other magazines don't get.'

Bargaining power

Cover stars remain the make or break of a men's magazine, says Taylor Herring managing director James Herring, who represents men's mag darling Abi Titmuss. He adds that the rivalry in the men's market has put PROs who represent 'talent' in a powerful bargaining position.

'Weeklies Nuts and Zoo have really shaken up the monthly market by going after the same cover stars. Loaded is going to need to have a very tough exclusivity policy for its front covers, but celebrity cover stars are at a premium,' says Herring.

However, he says that the mounted DVD on the May issue, which goes behind the scenes of Loaded's raunchy cover shoot, could be a winner: 'It could be a killer application if it can afford to do that regularly.

As a PRO I want the art director to come up with great creative ideas that are going to make my client stand out.'

LOADED'S CONTACTS AND SECTIONS, FROM NEWS TO COLLECTIBLES

- Editor Martin Daubney, 020 7261 5562

- Deputy editor Ben Raworth, 020 7261 7127

- Centrefolds Photoshoots

- Rogue A 'celebration of what's sweet and true'. Editor, Andy Sherwood,

020 7261 7578

- Going Out Nightlife. Editor, Jeff Maysh, 020 7261 7619

- Real Life Real-life stories. Editor, Ed Chipperfield, 020 7261 5602

- Park Life Football

- Obsessions

Strange collectibles

- The Right Stuff Gadgets, toys and fashion. Editor, Ed Chipperfield,

020 7261 5602

- Roaded Motoring

- Arcade Games reviews

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