MEDIA HEADLINER: Understated editor pins Later’s success on attention to detail. But is Phil Hilton’s offering different enough to stand out? Claire Beale reports

There comes a time in a man’s life when bare breasts begin to lose their shine. Big, bouncy, full-colour breasts sported by cheeky, brassy blondes, badly photographed and splattered across the pages of lads’ mags, that is.

There comes a time in a man’s life when bare breasts begin to lose

their shine. Big, bouncy, full-colour breasts sported by cheeky, brassy

blondes, badly photographed and splattered across the pages of lads’

mags, that is.



Which is why you’ll find a better class of tit in Later. Beautiful,

black-and-white, Herb Ritts-style tits. And arses. Because even when

they start to grow up, real blokes still like tits and arse.



Later is the new men’s magazine from IPC, designed to fill the gap

between youth’s obsession with naked women, lager and farting and the

onset of middle age when baldies with paunches struggle to rediscover

their youth by reading about naked women, lager and farting.



So Later Man has probably moved out of his blokey shared flat full of

empty beer cans and the smell of takeaway curry and into his own home,

purchased jointly with his girlfriend. Where work used to be a necessary

evil to fuel nights out with the lads, it’s now called his career. These

are the halcyon days between divorce, second marriages, falling off the

top of the career ladder and penile dysfunction. Later but not too

late.



And Later will cater to his tastes with a mix of lifestyles,

relationships and careers, reviews, health and fashion, all delivered

with a lightness of touch, a real irreverence and sense of fun. The tits

and bums may look stylish, but this is no serious style bible.



It is the progeny of Phil Hilton, the magazine’s editor and the guy who

came up with the Later concept for IPC. The unobtrusively ordinary

looking Hilton may seem to fit the ’affluent but still average guy’

label of the typical Later reader and, at 35, he nestles into the 25-40

age bracket for the title. But he’s been editing magazines in London for

too long to pretend he fits the Later stereotype completely. He

frequents the Groucho and Soho House, his mates include Mike Soutar (the

new editor of Maxim US) and Ed Needham (editor in chief of FHM), his

favourite reading matter embraces the New Yorker while he enjoys

listening to thrash metal. Hardly average.



Yet, while Hilton is not editor-as-reader, neither is he

editor-as-gossip-column-fodder. He’s an editor’s editor, not a profile

writer’s wet dream.



Jaded from a 2am stint working on the first issue the night before our

interview, he worries he might be a little, erm, boring. He’s certainly

not the colourful chappie snorting coke from Groucho toilet

cisterns.



’I’m no wild man,’ he murmurs. ’In fact, the joke is that I’m too

sane.



I’d rather be liked and respected for what I do and say than for a load

of anecdotes.’ He adds, superfluously, that he lives with his

girlfriend. ’We’re very happy.’



Perhaps his grassroots beginnings in the trade press (Data Link) have

helped anchor him, though even back then the lad from the East London

suburbs was selling rather more exotic features to the nationals and

Time Out. ’I used to be the guy who went out and reviewed chip shops and

learned ballroom dancing.’ Computers just paid the rent.



And while Hilton is generally understated, his juices flow when it comes

to magazines, ’brilliant, colourful, glossy things, like sweets in a

sweet shop. No internet site will ever replace Vogue.’ On the subject of

Later, he froths with enthusiasm.



’I really love the way it looks, I feel so proud of what we’ve already

achieved. I would almost burst into tears if one of my aunties said they

didn’t like the front cover.’ Which is quite something, since the dummy

issue’s black-and-white covergirl, arms nuzzling bare breasts, won’t hit

the spot for every woman.



Yet despite his confidence, Hilton admits that others, including IPC,

have tried to crack the older lads’ market before and failed. Look at

XL, Deluxe, James Brown’s proclamations that he would liven up the older

men’s mag sector. Why is Hilton so confident that this time it will

work?



’Often magazines are full of good ideas, poorly executed - bad photos,

bad writing, bad subbing. They’re let down on the details. We won’t fall

into that trap.’



Yet success will require more than simply quality and

professionalism.



Hilton’s track record on Men’s Health - with circulation up 30 per cent

in the year to June 1998 - suggest that he’s got the editorial nous

required.



And the growing backlash against the traditional lads’ mags and a body

of disenfranchised readers looking for more than simply beer and boobs

will help.



But the differences between Later and FHM and Loaded seem slim,

according to those who have seen dummies. The front cover slips sweetly

into a pile of similar naked-babe covers - nothing screams ’new’ and

’different’. But men of all ages are likely to give it at least a second

glance. As Hilton says, preparing for another gruelling photoshoot with

wall-to-wall female flesh: ’If only my school friends could see me

now.’



THE HILTON FILE



1988: Data Link, reporter



1990: People Management, staff writer



1994: FHM, deputy features editor



1996: Men’s Health, managing editor, then editor



1999: Later, editor.



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