The editor's seat at Loaded is IPC's most precarious. The previous editor, Scott Manson, lasted just ten months and the magazine has had three editors in under a year.
Loaded's new man is Martin Daubney, deputy to Manson for the past seven months, and his fighting talk suggests that he'll get his armoury out if IPC calls time.
"I'm totally dedicated to this job," Daubney declares. "I have a blow-up mattress and a foot-pump by the desk so I can just roll into bed at night. It will take blood, sweat, tears, adrenaline and probably a few drinks."
At 33 years old he may be a decade older than the typical red-blooded Loaded reader, but he promises he's up for anything. Which is just as well, given the Herculean task ahead of him.
He inherits a magazine which, in the latest ABC audit, experienced the second-largest fall in period-on-period circulation after Front, slipping just under 10 per cent to 261,937. It's still the second-biggest seller in the men's market after FHM, but Maxim is not far away at 251,117 copies a month.
Daubney's mark is already on the magazine. His enthusiasm for a more interactive approach with readers is apparent, introducing features such as "Britain's Sexiest Barmaid" and "Photo-booth Challenge", where readers' girlfriends flash their assets for £50. His promise that he "lives the (Loaded) lifestyle, I don't make it up" seems to hold up, with the latest issue featuring him and Manson (Scott, not Marilyn) trying out "a bag of acid" to see if they could get any artistic inspiration.
His immediate pedigree is firmly in the "tits 'n' arse" vein. He was the editor of page3.com and buffed up his tabloid credentials as the editor of the News of the World's "Sin Bin" page. Daubney describes his stint on the NoW as: "Like starting big school - fucking terrifying. I needed to know I could do it."
Although he dismisses rival FHM as "the kind of magazine suburban nerds buy" he was the features editor on the title in the late 90s. The one surprising entry in his CV is his stint at the women's weekly Bella, where he progressed from writer to commissioning editor. This experience, Daubney says, "made me focus on readers". And he hasn't forgotten his finest hour on Bella: "Writing about a couple from Wolverhampton who were sued over a cup of tea."
Daubney has set himself a deadline of one year to get things shipshape at Loaded. "I want Loaded to be the coolest, sexiest magazine in Britain with a rising circulation." He has a number of schemes up his sleeve: "I've completely revamped sections and revved up what makes Loaded unique - fearlessness and hedonism." Which includes boosting the magazine's celebrity content. "The number one challenge is getting better covers," Daubney says. "I'm looking to hire a celebrity go-getter to march around town with an envelope of money, kicking doors in."
He says that IPC will invest in the title, with point-of-sale promotion and a number of media stunts to bring the brand back on to lads' radars.
The group publishing director of IPC Ignite, Eric Fuller, backs this up: "The IPC board has voted for a substantially increased marketing budget for 2004 as sales have consolidated and we have seen increased marketing activity from all of our competitors."
Media observers believe Loaded has to develop its character to differentiate itself in an increasingly homogenised market. Duncan Sillence, the business director at Starcom Motive, says: "There's huge choice in the market and it's not as good as its competitors. It's gone from being an iconic brand to being a commodity in five years."
Nik Vyas, an associate director at ZenithOptimedia, adds: "In trying to out-FHM FHM, many titles have merely upped their 'nipple count' without capturing the fun element that makes the market leader successful." But he believes that Daubney can revive Loaded: "He'll shake things up and use his contacts to get decent cover stars, which will hopefully translate into increased sales at the newsstand."
Dylan Jones, the editor of GQ, hopes IPC will give Daubney a good run at the job, but believes Loaded is stuck in a time warp. "The problem with Loaded is that it is a magazine of its time. If you want the things that Loaded used to deliver, then look at Jack, it's what Loaded was ten years ago - ridiculously lowbrow, but funny."
But Fuller believes Daubney will deliver and declares: "He's a real natural for the job with leadership skills, presence and charisma."
Clive Milner, the managing director of Times Newspapers Limited, and an old boss of Daubney's, comments: "Martin literally lives the life. He has fresh ideas and angles which I'm sure he will put to full use at Loaded."
Daubney is realistic about the task ahead. "There's a job on here, but I'm up for it," he storms. He'll need to be if he's to last longer than his predecessors.
THE DAUBNEY FILE
1995: Bella, staff writer rising to commissioning editor
1997: FHM, features editor
2000: page3.com, editor
2001: News of the World's Sin Bin pages, editor
2003: Loaded, deputy editor
2003: Loaded, editor