MEDIA: PROFILE; No anoraks, just boys in the hood: Mark Higham, editor, Escape

The problem with computer magazines is the image. Just picking one up invites an attack of geekdom and there’s the strange fear that you will find yourself wearing an anorak by the time you reach page 12.

The problem with computer magazines is the image. Just picking one up

invites an attack of geekdom and there’s the strange fear that you will

find yourself wearing an anorak by the time you reach page 12.



But no longer. There’s a new mag in town as of 10 October and it’s far

more concerned with bawdy behaviour than baud rates. Described by its

editor, Mark Higham, as the Loaded of the computer world, Escape is the

latest title from Dennis and the kind of magazine you were always

expecting from the company founded by Felix Dennis after defending the

Oz obscenity trial.



The magazine itself is breaking the rules of computer publishing. For a

start, it’s looking more for car and fag advertisers than a quarter page

from the latest modem manufacturer, there’s absolutely no CD-ROM

covermount and it includes pictures of naked people who are actually

quite good-looking.



‘The thing is,’ Higham says, ‘689,000 people in Britain use the Internet

at the last count and the best selling Internet magazine,.Net, only

sells 40,000 copies. The vast majority of computer users are just turned

off by computer publishing. We‘re hoping to pick up 20-25,000 of those

potential readers.’



Thus, the first issue includes 2,000 Internet drinking games (Higham

insisted on being interviewed the afternoon before he and the team began

road-testing them), the top ten Internet babes, based on cute

celebrities with the highest number of hits on their home page, and a

game review of RAC Rally which sends the team out to the actual rally

courses to compare the simulation with real life.



‘Escape will be about coming up with the real world and relating to the

Internet rather than the other way around,’ Higham says. ‘Our readers

are going to be aged between 18 and 35, they’ll have discovered the

computer and the Net at work and they’ll be interested in it, but far

more interested in clubbing and drinking. We’ve got columnists like

stand-up comedian Mark Thomas, FHM’s Jim Smith and Johnny Ball because I

don’t think computer writers write as well about real life as real life

writers do about computers. I think the reason Loaded is so successful

is that it speaks and does what its readers do. That’s what we’ll be

like.’



Higham himself gained something of a reputation as a troubleshooter in

previous roles spanning eight years at Dennis’s fierce rival, Future

Publishing. He launched two titles, went over to California to turn

another title around (‘The worst job I ever had,’ he recalls. ‘None of

the staff would talk to me because I was a Brit telling them how to do

things.’) and built his name by radically altering PC Format in his

first editorship to take the title to the UK’s number one PC magazine.

Under his gentle hand, PC Format even picked up readers who didn’t own a

PC. Not bad for a 29-year-old who fell into journalism because he kind

of liked English and kind of liked computers.



‘I guess I got that reputation because, like any editor, when I start on

a magazine I see things I don’t like and change them,’ he says. ‘That’s

what I’m doing now. Except that it’s not a magazine, of course, it’s an

entire magazine sector.’



HIGHLIGHTS



1992 Editor, PC Format, Future Publishing

1994 Editor, Game Player, Imagine Publishing, USA

1995 Launched PC Guide/Computer Arts, Future Publishing

1996 Launch editor, Escape, Dennis Publishing



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