MEDIA HEADLINER: Fitness title for the man who prefers train sets to training - Paul Colbert takes on the new role as editor of Zest for Men

When Paul Colbert appears, you know something is about to happen.

When Paul Colbert appears, you know something is about to


He markets himself as an agent of change, who likes to get hold of an

ailing magazine and nurse it back to health, or breathe life into a

brand new magazine launch. Two weeks ago Colbert tipped up at the

National Magazine Company with a mission to work on its second foray

into the men’s magazine market, the health and fitness title, Zest for


Colbert, who is 42, seems an unlikely candidate to preach health and

fitness, with no obvious evidence of bulging pecs or toned muscles. One

former employee unkindly quips: ’I always had this sneaking suspicion

that he is the kind of man who wears trousers with an elasticated waist

band.’ Colbert, however, is the first to admit that he is not one to

pump iron at every given opportunity or follow a strict macrobiotic

diet. With a degree of exasperation he says: ’I wish someone would tell

me how to get fit in ten minutes.’

Health and fitness are by no means a new subject for Colbert, who, in

1995, was launch editor of the men’s fitness title, XL, when it was

owned by Stone Hart. Anyway, as Terry Mansfield, managing director of

NatMags, points out: ’If you are a toy buyer at Hamleys, you don’t have

to be 12 years old. You don’t have to be totally of the lifestyle in

order to understand the subject matter as an editor.’

According to Colbert, Zest for Men is an alternative to all the existing

magazines in the men’s health and fitness market. ’This magazine will

appeal to ABC1 men between 25 and 38 years old who are growing out of

their hedonistic twenties and picking up more responsibilities. It’s

about how they are preparing for the next part of their lives. It’s for

men with busy lives who want to diet and eat well without becoming


From its conception in March to the appointment of Colbert as editor,

Zest for Men has not had a conventional development. Mansfield’s

inspiration was an airport, as he explains: ’I was in the duty-free in

New York airport a few months ago and it occurred to me that in the

cosmetics industry you get Chanel and other top brands for men and

women, and so I thought, why not do that with a magazine? We have had a

lot of success with our women’s title, Zest. I’ve always wanted another

men’s magazine, so why not do Zest for Men?’ he says.

Mansfield may not have seen his idea come to fruition so rapidly, had

not Colbert turned up on his doorstep selling his wares as a magazine

doctor. Colbert had left Gruner & Jahr just seven weeks earlier, seeking

a new challenge and fed up by the lengthy commute from his home in

Kettering to the publisher’s new offices in Docklands. During his

two-year stint on the science and technology magazine, Focus, he had

re-shaped a dry and serious magazine into a ’more entertaining and

slightly weird title’. His tactics paid off last year, with Focus

achieving its highest ABC in three years, landing him the Editor of the

Year accolade from the British Society of Magazine Editors.

Colbert describes himself as a ’detail nerd’. He loved Focus because

’it’s ultimate pub fact material’ and he is a man obsessed by odd


Nick Smith, deputy editor of Focus, says: ’He’s the only man I have ever

met who knows how many twists there are in the wire of a champagne

bottle top.’

The likelihood of an anorak lurking somewhere in his closet becomes even

more strong when Colbert admits to loving Scalectrix, tasting obscure

bottled beers (and filing the details of each and every one, for a

future book on the subject) and doing a spot of DIY. This latter

activity can be partially forgiven, since his wife, Deborah Barker, is

the editor of the homestyle magazine, Inspirations. ’I live in a house

with 18 different colour schemes, and stencils tried out from last

month’s magazine!’ he quips.

Colbert nurtured ambitions to be a journalist from the age of 11. He cut

his teeth on the local newspaper, the Croydon Advertiser, at 18 before

joining IPC as a staff writer on Melody Maker. This was to be the next

best thing to Colbert’s other ambition, which was to be a musician.

Colbert has led a fractious existence in journalism, flitting from one

title to another, taking off when things get too settled. He promises,

however, that Zest for Men is a project that will keep him going for a

while. ’I want to develop this for a long time - between two and four

years.’ Perhaps it’s time to dust down those weights again, don some

Lycra and put away the Scalectrix.


1980 Melody Maker, staff writer

1984 One Two Testing, launch editor

1987 Making Music, launch editor

1992 Vox, editor

1994 XL, launch editor

1995 Encore, launch editor

1996 Focus, launch editor

1998 Zest for Men, editor