MEDIA: PROFILE; New media for the masses: Simon Waldman, editor, New Media Lab

When a new comedian breaks in the UK they go through four inevitable stages: the ‘have you heard of them?’ stage; the ‘you must see them’ stage; the ‘have you seen what they’re up to?’ stage and the ‘whatever happened to them?’ stage.

When a new comedian breaks in the UK they go through four inevitable

stages: the ‘have you heard of them?’ stage; the ‘you must see them’

stage; the ‘have you seen what they’re up to?’ stage and the ‘whatever

happened to them?’ stage.



That’s been the UK media’s reaction to the Internet to date. The Net has

reached stage three and, unless something happens, it runs the risk of

falling into stage four pretty swiftly. Now that something may have

happened. This week sees the launch of Shift Control, the UK’s first

serious on-line magazine, under the guiding hand of the Guardian Group’s

New Media Lab.



The magazine is a culture arts and lifestyle magazine only available on

the Net. According to Simon Waldman, the New Media Lab’s editor, the

magazine aims to avoid the pitfalls of much of the on-line publishing

world by actually being the kind of magazine you would buy from a

newstand and not just a bunch of boys playing with new media toys. It

has contributors such as the Observer’s William Leith, novelist Toby Lit

has provided an extract of his new novel and the readers themselves are

offered the chance to contribute as reviewers.



‘We’ve tried to get the character and spirit of the Guardian and its

editorial quality but make the most of what the Net can offer,’ Waldman

explains. ‘It’s been sponsored throughout by Whitbread so we have been

working with the security of financial support behind us for a year.’



Waldman broke into new media by accident. After working on various

fashion and media trade titles he freelanced for the Evening Standard,

the Guardian, the Daily Mail and produced programmes for London News

Radio. He also worked for style title Dazed and Confused. Commisioned by

the title to write a feature on the movers and shakers in all things

futuristic and bizarre, he had to get onto the Net in an afternoon at

the time when few people in the media had heard of it.



‘My computer, which I knew so well, was suddenly this unknown beast

sitting in my room with hundreds of thousands of things running through

it,’ he says. ‘It was a little unnerving at first but then it became

exciting and I would stay up to three or four in the morning just trying

to find out how everything worked and what was going on.’



He was soon writing about new media and found not only that few other

people were, but that even those actually working in the field

understood very little about it. ‘It began to irritate me when people

would explain something brilliant and new about the Internet that I had

discovered six months ago,’ he says. ‘I had reached the point where I

was reviewing websites and I could tell what was wrong with them while

the site creators couldn’t spot it themselves.’



One day, after a long lunch with the New Media Lab’s boss Robin Hunt and

the staff of the Idler magazine, Waldman gave up his freelance

journalist status and turned gamekeeper at the lab. He worked on the

Guardian’s Euro ‘96 site and then began preparing Shift Control.



He’s confident of its success as he believes the editorial team

possesses all the qualifications that mark out a great magazine. ‘I’m

working with two other editors, Robin Hunt and Pade Petrovic on this,’

he explains. ‘Robin comes up with the grand concepts, I rubbish them and

Pade makes sure the resulting idea actually happens.’



HIGHLIGHTS



1990 Reporter, Media Week

1991 Features editor, Media Week

1992 Deputy editor, Media Week

1996 Editor, New Media Lab



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