IPC Media is in talks to sell beleaguered monthly lads’ mag Loaded to Vitality Publishing as part of a wider review of its specialist and niche titles. However, media commentators say it will take a significant investment to turn around the original lads’ mag’s fortunes.
Vitality, which also publishes monthly gay title Attitude magazine, is thought to have approached IPC, and the two publishers are in talks over the future of Loaded.
Industry experts greeted news of the negotiations between IPC and the independent publisher with surprise. Eve Samuel-Camps, head of press at Universal McCann, says: “Because newsstand is so competitive, it’s a tall order for an independent to publish a big circulation men’s title. It would need a significant investment.”
Dominic McVey, whose publishing business Kane bought rival men’s monthly Front last year, questions why Vitality would be interested in acquiring Loaded. “IPC spent a lot of money relaunching Loaded last year, but its circulation is still dropping off a cliff. I can’t see how an independent could keep Loaded afloat without the weight that IPC puts behind it keeping it listed,” he says.
Loaded launched in 1994 and was the UK’s first nationally distributed lads’ mag but it has been haemorrhaging circulation since its peak in the Nineties. Its net circulation fell 26.3% to 53,591 copies in the latest ABC figures.
The title’s declining circulation reflects the poor performance in the rest of the men’s market, which observers say suggests that the genre doesn’t work any more because men are looking for something different.
Samuel-Camps says: “Men’s magazines are in a lot of trouble at the moment and the successful launch of ShortList suggests there is more appetite for lifestyle titles. Loaded’s tone doesn’t seem to resonate any more.”
However, she adds that Loaded is still a strong, powerful brand with a lot of cachet. IPC must still see some value in the market because it says it is retaining the weekly title Nuts.
Rob Lynam, head of press trading a MEC, says: “It’s feasible that Loaded can survive, but in what form? When it launched it captured the zeitgeist of the time but it needs to be relevant now.”
IPC has launched brand extensions off the back of Loaded, most recently an energy drink, and these opportunities must be in Vitality’s mind, alongside any digital revenues that can be generated.
However, Vitality will need – to use the Loaded vernacular – a lot of balls to give the magazine a new lease of life.