For several years the general male lifestyle market was considered a no-go area by publishers. The assumption was that if men were buying magazines, they were focused towards a particular area of interest, be that music, football or motoring.
Arena was the only serious player in the market until GQ launched in 1989. This was swiftly followed by Esquire in 1991. With the men’s magazine market showing signs of life after many dormant years and not having any share of the pie, IPC launched Loaded in April of 1994. It chose the man whose concept it was, James Brown, as the editor. His background included assistant editorship of NME.
As a result of his initiative and its repercussions, we have seen the men’s lifestyle market grow by over 300 per cent in sales since 1990. The value of advertising, advertorials and supplements has increased by 40 per cent from 18.4m to 25.7m since the launch of Loaded. Pagination has increased by 35.6 per cent over the same period.
The rationale behind Loaded was to provide men with a magazine they could identify with and feel comfortable reading. It was intended to fill the gap in the market for an accessible general interest title that Brown had identified. As expected, it contains all the standard elements of football, sex, music, fashion and comedy. But the main reason for its success is the enjoyable, irreverent style in which it is written.
Although IPC did its normal extensive research into the magazine before it was launched, and the results showed it had the makings of a runaway success, IPC was still very cautious with its launch circulation guarantee of 45,000 copies.
Loaded’s success has been beyond its wildest imaginings. Word spread through the country like wildfire. The trade press gave the title huge amounts of coverage, and the tabloids started to pick up on the articles that appeared in the magazine. Circulation growth has been phenomenal, and each issue has consistently outsold the previous one.
Loaded has had a profound effect on the market as a whole. It has now become acceptable for men to buy a general lifestyle magazine. It has also given IPC a trendy new image as an innovative publisher. On the back of Loaded’s success, IPC has launched Muzik into the dance music market and, more recently, Eat Soup.
Growth in the market has been as a result of the injection of competition from IPC. For example, FHM has shown a 100 per cent increase in the latest ABC figures; Maxim is up 44 per cent; Men’s Health is up 15 per cent; even old-timers like Arena have seen sales rise 22 per cent.
Loaded’s influence is paving the way for new launches from rival publishers but can also be seen in the editorial policies of established brands. FHM and GQ in particular have introduced more sex into their issues over the last year and have become more laddish in style.
The success of Loaded has sparked a media frenzy, with the term “Loaded man” being used as a specific demographic tag. We have witnessed extensive newspaper and TV coverage of the so-called New Lad. We have also seen the phenomenon on TV in the form of shows like Men Behaving Badly and sports quiz They Think It’s All Over.
As it approaches its third birthday, there is no end in sight for IPC’s big success story. Loaded has found a niche and a huge one at that.