MEDIA PROFILE: Mark Payton, launch editor, the Net - Putting the net in layman’s terms

It’s hard to find an editor these days who isn’t described as a workaholic. Indeed, it seems the first qualification for editing is to immerse yourself in every detail of your publication. Having said that, there’s obsessive and obsessive. There’s people who dot every ’i’ and cross every ’t’. And then there’s Mark Payton, the launch editor of Haymarket’s new internet magazine, the Net.

It’s hard to find an editor these days who isn’t described as a

workaholic. Indeed, it seems the first qualification for editing is to

immerse yourself in every detail of your publication. Having said that,

there’s obsessive and obsessive. There’s people who dot every ’i’ and

cross every ’t’. And then there’s Mark Payton, the launch editor of

Haymarket’s new internet magazine, the Net.



’Mark has a legendary habit of coming in every morning with three sheets

of lined A4 filled with writing,’ says Patrick Fuller, editor of Autocar

- one of the titles Payton looks after as a group editor at Haymarket

Consumer Electronics magazines. ’He’ll come up to me and say, ’Paddy, I

woke up at 2am this morning and there’s a couple of things that worried

me.’ Then he hands over a list. That’s the sort of attention to detail

which makes a great journalist.’



Payton is a journalist of the old school, having worked his way to the

top through sheer determination. After leaving school, he worked in a

morgue and as a plasterer’s apprentice until he had earned enough money

to go to the London College of Printing to study periodical

journalism.



On leaving, he worked at the Deptford and Peckham Mercury, landing a

series of front-page scoops by dint of taking over the desk of the

paper’s previous star reporter and taking all the calls meant for

him.



After the Mercury, he began his long career at Haymarket, only broken in

the late-1980s by a brief stint as news editor at the British Journal of

Photography. Back at Haymarket, he now oversees What Car, What Car

on-line, Practical Caravan and Stuff, as well as the Net. It was

launching What Car on-line that gave him the inspiration for the

Net.



’I decided to get up to speed on the internet,’ he says. ’I read all the

magazines to understand how to put What Car on-line. When I had

finished, I put my print head back on and realised how technical all the

magazines were. The net is supposed to be this great new medium - and

there’s somewhere between five and ten million Britons on-line right now

- but until now, there was nothing out there for the average

person.’



And so the Net was born. Payton sees it as a listings mag, influenced by

the same things that influence all listings magazines. Hence, in the

launch issue there’s coverage of music sites, including Glastonbury, as

well as guides to summer movie blockbuster web sites and a feature on

booking on-line holidays. Payton thinks his magazine simply cries out to

the PR industry.



’You’ve got all these PR people who’ve been told to get coverage of the

Sainsbury’s web site and they’re tearing their hair out,’ he says. ’If

they bang away for long enough, they’ll maybe get a bit in a column in

the Times. We’ll give everything a proper review.



Payton says the magazine is not an unconditional advocate of the

internet.



He wants it to adopt a Which? stance, reporting the good and the bad

from the user’s point of view. He sees his readers as being anyone

interested in the on-line world. ’I want to have something in the

magazine to attract all sorts of people, from those with years of net

expertise to people like my wife, who is just working out that some of

her friends have a thing called e-mail.’



HIGHLIGHTS



1995: Editor, What Car



1998: Group editor, Haymarket Consumer Electronics magazines



1999: Launch editor, the Net.



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