Loaded was founded in 1994 by Mick Bunnage, Tim Southwell and James Brown, a former deputy editor of the music weekly New Musical Express. It was first published by IPC Media. The title of the magazine is believed to be named after the Primal Scream song of the same name. In its early days, the magazine's readership was once memorably described as "50% Sun readers and 50% Guardian readers". Brown has described the irreverent comic Viz as an inspiration for Loaded. Brown's fanzine Attack On Bzag can be seen as a precursor for Loaded, as can music journalist John Robb's Rox fanzine, which heavily influenced Brown and Loaded with its frenetic style and humorous use of captioned photos.
Commenting on the magazine's creation, Brown said: "I was told you need 99 straight guys and one weirdo to make a magazine. I did it the other way, I chose 99 weirdos." Loaded captured the lad culture of the 1990s like no other magazine. The original editorial team, notably Martin Deeson, Jon Wilde, Tim Southwell, Mick Bunnage, Rowan Chernin, Pete Stanton and Derek Harbinson, defined the writing that came to be identified with Loaded.
The Loaded style has been cloned numerous times, most obviously by Emap's FHM and Maxim, which became the biggest-selling men's magazine in the US for Dennis Publishing. Loaded also influenced women's monthlies, with Emap launching Minx, "For girls with a lust for life". In January 2004, IPC launched the weekly Nuts, announced as the world's first men's weekly, and Emap quickly followed with Zoo.
Loaded won the prestigious PPA Magazine Of The Year Award two times in a row, in 1995 and 1996. In 2007, Loaded was voted 49th in Industry website goodmagazine.com's Top 51 Magazines of All Time list, for the "Smartest, Prettiest, Coolest, Funniest, Most Influential, Most Necessary, Most Important, Most Essential, etc." Despite its influence, sales have dropped in recent years: in the first six months of 2007, Loaded recorded a 35% drop in circulation compared to the first half of 2006. However, in February 2010, Loaded received an ABC circulation figure that was down "just 2% over the period," compared with what Media Week called "eye-popping falls" for its competitors.
Launch Deputy Editor and later Editor, Tim Southwell, wrote about the early years of Loaded in Getting Away With It (Ebury Press, 1998). James Brown discussed the title at length and the impact it had on '90s culture in the documentary Live Forever: The Rise and Fall of Brit Pop
Between 2003-2006, Loaded won numerous industry awards for design and journalism, including 'best designed fashion pages' at the Magazine Design Awards, for a spread of dogs photographed wearing jewellery. Loaded staff writer Jeff Maysh won five industry awards for journalism, including MJA Feature Writer of the Year, and PTC New Monthly Consumer Journalist of the year.
Loaded was bought by its current owner, independent publishing house, Simian Publishing in September 2013.
- Sillito, David (reporter). BBC 6 o'clock news "Co-op supermarket to stop selling Nuts magazine" (Television news broadcast). London: BBC. Archived from the original on 8 August 2013. Retrieved 8 August 2013. "...and the clearest evidence is simply, how many people are buying them. Loaded for instance used to sell around 400,000 copies 15 years ago, it's now lost 90% of its sales, down to around 30,000 copies for each edition. (David Sillito)"
- Halliday, Josh (16 August 2012). "Nuts magazine's sales face squeeze". The Guardian (media section). Retrieved 9 August 2013. "No figures were available for Loaded, which withdrew from the Audit Bureau of Circulations official audit ... Sales of Loaded had plummeted to 34,505 a month on average in the second half of 2011."
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- Turvill, William (18 June 2013). "Loaded magazine publisher goes into administration". Press Gazette. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
- Loaded has fourth owner in three years with plan for more 'stylised and subtle' approach