Cut from a different cloth

A new weekly lads' mag hopes to attract readers with humour rather than bikini-clad babes. But does it stand a chance in an overcrowded market?
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The Independent Online

For a "bloke's magazine" to select a balding 56-year-old man as the cover star for its launch issue and not follow the vogue for bikini-wearing babes could be regarded as a decision tantamount to commercial suicide.

Nevertheless Simon Geller, Cut's editor, chose a grinning Sven Goran Eriksson as the first face of the latest entry into the burgeoning men's weekly magazine market.

Geller claims female flesh will not be Cut's primary selling point which makes it a revolutionary concept among men's magazines. "I would say we have less women than any men's magazine, weekly or monthly, that you will find on any newsagent's shelf," he says.

A flick through Cut doesn't wholly bear this out, with features like "TV Totty" and a "Sex Quiz". But Geller draws a distinction. "Our attitude to the sexual content is that it's comedy. It's fun to look at and it makes you laugh. With the others, it's not actually comedy, it's phwooar," he says, whilst conceding that, "it would be an extremely reckless publisher that ever brings out a magazine for men that doesn't have a sexual content."

His words have a familiar ring. Seven months ago, when Nuts and Zoo - Cut's rivals - burst on to the news-stands, Mike Soutar, the editorial director at Nuts's publishers IPC, claimed that Nuts would steer clear of sleaze because its readers would not want such material in the family home. But the latest Nuts (so far a soaraway success with sales of 290,000 a week) is a "Jenna Jameson Sex Special", with a free booklet on the cover girl's "sex tips".

According to Geller, who is a former editor of Men's Health and the women's weekly Me, the readers of Nuts and Emap's Zoo (sales of 200,000) have turned out to be much younger than originally anticipated. "I was talking to a schoolteacher friend and he said all his kids were reading them," he claims.

Cut, which is published by H Bauer, has been nearly 18 months in the planning. It would have come out in January but held back in the face of the £16m combined launch budget of its two rivals.

For months, Geller's 22-strong team were putting out weekly dummies, realising the vision that he had when reading the Dennis Publishing news-based magazine The Week, which is intended to be a compilation of the best writing and stories from other publications. Geller's view was that although The Week was "addictive" it lacked something visually and fell short in areas like sport and humour. His original pitch was for "a cross between The Week and FHM", but that was an oversimplification of what Cut has become.

The magazine trawls every publication from Fortean Times to What Video & Widescreen TV in order to find the best material for blokey pub banter.

Cut journalists - several of whom have been recruited from national newspapers - wade through 14 car magazines, seven television magazines and scores of newspapers. They will only feature items or stories if they can provide three or more diverse sources and opinions, Geller says. It is more than just lifting ideas, he argues, claiming that the skill of his hard-working staff is in the original and humorous presentation of the material they adopt.

Some of the content is innovative - such as an obituaries column, which features the likes of the late spandex-wearing New York Dolls bass player Arthur "Killer" Kane. Other bits are crass. The battle for Najaf is described thus: "Iraq kicks off again - Yanks battle Shiite nutters with big guns."

Cut's rivals have written the magazine off already. Tim Brooks, the managing director of IPC Ignite! - the division which oversees men's lifestyle magazines - celebrated Nuts's first ABC figures by saying: "Today has been a great day for two reasons: first, Nuts has become the biggest selling men's magazine in the UK; and second, I've just seen the first issue of Cut."

Much of the negative comment has centred on the production values of the new magazine and Geller concedes that the paper is only of a similar quality to a "TV listings magazine".

But he says the readers will not mind. He contends that high-quality paper is only demanded by advertisers (Cut only has three ads per issue). "I don't think the consumer gives a monkey's," he says.

As for the nudity, Geller appears to be sticking to his guns with his second issue. Instead of a girl with her kit off, he has plumped for Michael Owen with his new Real Madrid kit on.