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July 3, 2014

Loaded relaunches with ‘zero-nipple’ policy – and unveils Julie Burchill as a columnist

By William Turvill

Loaded magazine has re-launched with “zero-nipple tolerance” as it attempts to shed the “desperate” image it has developed since the turn of the millennium.

The front page of its latest issue features the Gallagher brothers rather than a scantily-dressed woman, as has become the custom in recent years.

The title has also taken on Julie Burchill as a columnist and there is said to be one woman in the issue – actress Olympia Valance – but she is fully clothed.

Director of Simian Publishing Spencer Hickson told Press Gazette he wanted the magazine to return to the “real Loaded” of 1994 to 2000.

“The Noughties was taken a little bit too literally, and the requirement to chase those sales through covers by putting Hollyoaks want-to-bes on the front turned Loaded into something else,” he said.

“The bottom line to it is that Loaded has been through a number of hands, and a lot of those people who owned the business were doing it for notoriety or lifestyle or whatever they were doing it for.

“If you look at it commercially, we’ve got a distribution network that don’t want to stock dirty images, we’ve got a general groundswell of opinion that’s moved on from the Noughties… and the publication is less attractive both to readers and advertisers and partners if there’s a lack of consistency and negative association with it.

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“So it’s pretty difficult to argue any other way than it needs to become a mainstream men’s lifestyle magazine, but with an edge.”

In recent years, Loaded has changed hands four times. Before being taken over by Simian in October last year, Loaded was owned by Paul Baxendale-Walker's Blue Publishing. It went into administration in June last year and passed over to Loaded Media Ltd.

Previous owner Vitality Publishing went into administration with debts of more than £1m in April last year. Vitality bought Loaded from IPC Media in 2010.

Sales of Loaded have fallen from 350,000 in 2000 to less than a tenth that figure when it was last ABC audited in 2011.

Hickson praised the early days of the publication, when covers were “70 per cent iconic men”, and when women did feature they were people like Cameron Diaz or Kylie Minogue.

“Clearly it was defined as a lads’ mag,” Hickson said.

“And part of men’s lifestyle is looking at pretty ladies. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the balance that I think was more right in those early years than it was thereafter…

“Clearly there’s always going to be attractive ladies in there. It’s just [now] there’s a zero-nipple tolerance.”

Asked if he had considered re-branding the magazine, he said: “The reality is that the brand name is probably the strongest thing of the publication.

“The product itself in the last few years hasn’t lived up the brand recognition and reputation it has had historically.

“The only temptation was for this re-launch issue was to call in Re-Loaded. But clearly the title is the title and people, depending on age, associate with lots of different things. And we’re going tback to original, core stuff, which is real men’s lifestyle.”

Earlier this year, Simian Publishing announced plans to re-launch lads’ mag Front. Hickson said the company is no longer associated with that magazine.

Front claims on its website that it will be relaunched without specifying under which publisher.

Nuts magazine has also folded in recent months, and gadget magazine Stuff this week announced plans to rid itself of a scantily-clad female model from its front page.

Kat Banyard, a spokesperson for the Lose the Lads’ Mags campaign, said: "Since Lose the Lads' Mags was launched by UK Feminista and Object, Nuts and Front have folded, Zoo's sales have plummeted by a third, Stuff has dropped sexist covers and Loaded has announced it is ditching sexually objectifying content.

“This hugely significant sea-change in the magazine sector didn't 'just happen'. It was the thousands of people that stood up and demanded action who forced the hand of lads' mag editors.”

She added: "For years the publishers of lads' mags have peddled sexist, dehumanising images of women in order to turn a profit – but it is women and girls who have paid the price.

“Magazines like Loaded, Front, Nuts and Zoo have fueled attitudes that underpin violence against women – and that violence is at crisis levels. The changes we are seeing were hard fought for and long overdue." 

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