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Mark Simpson


After 50 issues and 500+ interviews, the team decided it was time to turn the tables on the By The Dart publisher himself. Here he talks to Phil Scoble.


the option of going into any of the company’s myriad businesses.


This chance to pick and choose his career left Mark with a choice few young men get – and his decision was to shape the rest of his life.


up founding By the Dart? H


Mark Simpson was an academic young man and dreamed of using his love of geography to earn a living. But when he was studying “the prevailing wisdom in the mid 70s was you had to become a town planner and I definitely didn’t want to do that. I rather fancied becoming a Geologist but I don’t think North Sea oil had quite captured the headlines at that point - if I had I could have gone prospecting for oil!”


But he also had a talent for economics and Mark went on to study the subject at Bristol University - and upon leaving believes he missed another opportunity. “Someone got me an interview with a merchant bank,” he said. “But I’d already secured a job as an Economist for the Society of British Motor Manufacturers - looking back I could have been retired by now if I’d gone to that interview!”


His position allowed him huge opportunities for such a young man: travelling to Japan for trade negotiations with Japanese motor manufacturers – “The British car industry wanted to keep Japanese imports to 10 per cent of the market,” said Mark, “which clearly failed! I got to meet the founding family of Toyota and other major industry figures. I would prepare the briefing papers, take minutes of the meetings etc. Exciting times and I learned a lot for my first job.”


After this he became personal assistant to a high powered executive of a large multinational company and when his boss retired after a couple of years he was given


ow did a studious, south east London born and bred boy with a love of geography come to work at the top levels of British publishing and then end


“I’d done some work connected with magazine publishing and said I’d like to try that. For want of a better place they stuck me in the marketing department of one of the country’s biggest trade publishers. After a little while I came up with an idea for an farming magazine, called “Crops Weekly”.”


This choice was not without irony for Mark’s family: “I’m a bit of a city lad really and I could barely tell the difference between wheat and barley! My grandfather, who was a real country man, was quite perplexed. However, I realised there was a gap in the market and the magazine was a big success.” Mark’s career as a magazine publisher had started, and he was on track for future success.


Actually, until By The Dart, I had never written a word, designed a page or even directly sold an advertisement in a magazine.


He was headhunted by another publishing company and got busy publishing a wide range of different publications – taking on trade, commercial, directory and specialist titles. He then moved on to publish one of the world’s most expensive subscription magazines – covering global investment banking travelling all over the world to its various offices. A dreaded ‘company restructure’ saw him made redundant a few years later however – and he needed a new


direction and quick.


“I had to do something – and decided I would try to convince someone to back me in buying my own magazine company.”


Mark paired up with the City investment fund 3i and bought Paragon Publishing in Bournemouth. It had made its name producing magazines for computer games enthusiasts and the early adopters of personal computers. Mark and his team increased the company’s magazines from 12 to 30 in just fewer than four years. “It was a terrific business with great people in which I am very proud to have been involved,” he said.


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