Cooper the cover boy: just like that

Have the lads gone mad? Loaded is ditching birds and putting blokes on the cover.
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The Independent Online

There is a long-standing tradition in magazines, particularly men's mags, to make cover stars of people whose claim to fame is that they are cover stars.

There is a long-standing tradition in magazines, particularly men's mags, to make cover stars of people whose claim to fame is that they are cover stars.

There is always at least one example of this curious vicious circle on the men's magazines shelf at the newsagent. Maxim this month has that less than household name Adriana Karembeu, the latest Wonderbra model.

What is she actually for? Do we genuinely care about her, or Caprice? As for Melanie Sykes and Gail Porter - why?

Sure, they look good. And sure, magazine cover stars need not have to pass the Women in Journalism test of being women in mainstream, professional jobs. There's room for fantasy on a magazine cover. But shouldn't the average reader at least have heard of someone whose celebrity status is sufficient for a cover, and be able to say something about their role in life?

Until now this has been an area where men's magazine editors have allowed the circulation figures to overrule the so-what factor.

However, this week Loaded will endeavour to break the mould. It is producing 100 different covers for its millennium issue, which in itself is a world record. But it is the nature of the covers which is more interesting than the quantity. Ostensibly representing icons of the century, more than 70 per cent are male; and the women include such non-babes as Mary Whitehouse.

Is this a trend away from the scantily-clad model, to be continued in the New Year? Editor and co-founder Tim Southwell says it is. He says he has felt pressurised by his competitors into running covers, and consequently features, about women in whom he has zero interest. And he is determined to break free.

"Everyone in this market is putting the same B-list celebrities on the covers," he says. "And we've had to go along with it, and it's detracted from the things we're really interested in, which is comedy and iconic figures such as those you would have seen at the Loaded awards ceremony - people like Luke Rhinehart, Noel Gallagher, Robert Carlyle and Irvine Welsh. They're the sort of people who make up what Loaded is about. Those people are our heroes. Who gives a toss about Caprice? Who is she? Who is Gail Porter?

"Of course I'm not against having women on the cover. I'd love to put Madonna on the cover, if we could get a photo-shoot, because she is important. But I would rather put Kate Adie on the cover than Melanie Sykes. That, though, would be circulation suicide," he says, a little ungallantly.

But next year Southwell says he will take the risk of a circulation dip because he is convinced the risk is small, as male readers share his boredom with the current crop of cover girls.

Loaded, which sells 384,0000 copies a month, is second in the men's market, some 300,000 copies behind FHM, and around 100,000 ahead of Maxim.

"I know the currency in the men's magazine market is women, and two of the magazines, FHM and Maxim, have had a women-only cover policy, and fair play to them, they have done very well on it," says Southwell.

"Unfortunately for us we have had to follow suit if we wanted to get good sales figures; but now I want to experiment. Next year I will go back to some sort of compromise between circulation certainties and doing what I want to do.

"There will be men on the covers. Men I would like to put on the cover include Robert De Niro, Robbie Williams, Ali G. Maybe half the year it will be blokes."