Andy McDuff turns offbeat dreams into viable reality, Anne-Marie
It’s the hottest day of the year. Andy McDuff, the publishing director
at IPC Magazines, is trying to find the coolest room in King’s Reach
Tower so that he can tell me all about Eat Soup, the new cooking, eating
and travel magazine.
To help him do it, he’s assembled an impressive phalanx of fellow IPC
stalwarts who have all worked their proverbials off to make this baby
happen: the editor, David Lancaster (ex-Good Food, came up with the
idea), editor-in-chief, Alan Wilson, and Nick Taylor, the advertisement
They’re all milling about awkwardly in McDuff’s office while his
secretary fixes us a suitably chilled-out meeting room.
The quirkily-named Eat Soup is the latest launch from IPC’s Specialist
Group stable and will be the sixth magazine McDuff has overseen from
inception to board approval in his current role.
It’s worth reeling off just some of those names so you can see what
calibre of launch we could be talking here. They are Vox, Soccer Stars,
Goal, Musik and... Loaded.
Yes, McDuff launched Loaded, the publishing success of the 90s, the
magazine that leapt 82 per cent in the latest round of ABCs, and for
which last month McDuff snatched the PPA’s Consumer Publisher of the
Year award for an unheard-of second time.
Add to that the fact that he’s been at IPC for 20 years, and was its
youngest publisher at 29, and you’d think McDuff would have a profile
Not a bit of it. Profiles seem to be the preserve of the creative types
at IPC, the James Browns and the Sally O’Sullivans, the ideas people,
those who dream it. McDuff is the sort who translates the dream into a
commercially viable proposition. It may be half as glamorous, but it’s
It’s clear he has a lot of admiration for the left-field thinkers of
this world and adds wistfully that he would love to be creative. He
tried hard to be a journalist in Clacton when he was younger, applying
to Essex County Newspapers. He failed to make the grade and says he
doesn’t know why. Twenty years on you get the feeling he’d still like an
McDuff sees himself as a ‘man in a suit’. Yet despite the fact that
he’s only one step away from the board, he still gets an obvious buzz
from rapping with creatives.
It’s almost tempting to wonder how McDuff made it so far (maybe after 20
years they give you an honorary publisher’s title), he just seems too,
well, normal. Still, it’s often the quiet ones you have to watch.
Funnily enough, I ran into a group of IPC staffers at a party the day
after I met McDuff and they were only too happy to dish some dirt. Yes,
that pleasant blokish act hid something darker (cheques to my home
address please, Andy).
McDuff, meanwhile, is happy to play Mr Average. Ask him what he does
outside work and he thinks for a moment. ‘I should say something like
bungee jumping here, shouldn’t I?’ he grins. ‘I’m afraid I have no
quirky hobbies, I’m so boring.’ OK, so his first job was as a lifeguard
on Clacton beach in the summer of 1976, which is different, I grant you.
But the system got him in the end.
Outside work, he seems to be in- to his family big time (cute pictures
of babies reading Shoot are plastered all over his office). He’s tried
golf (Golf Monthly has recently been added to his portfolio of titles)
but it’s not really his thing. He’s more of a football man (and tips
Croatia as an outside bet for Euro 96, though for the sake of all his
football titles, naturally he wants England to do well).
McDuff’s feet-on-the-ground approach has not gone unnoticed. Neil Jones,
director of press at TMD Carat, says: ‘He’s charming but not in a smarmy
way, and he’s very shrewd.’
That other ordinary IPC bloke made good, the chief executive, Mike
Matthew, also has a lot of time for him. McDuff recalls that when he
became a publisher, Matthew took him aside and said: ‘Always be your own
man and never be afraid to make decisions. If you get 51 per cent of
them right I’ll support you. But if you get 51 per cent wrong, I’ll fire
McDuff must feel he has a certain amount of credit in the IPC bank at
the moment. He’ll have to wait a good few months yet to find out whether
Eat Soup has been a sound investment, but McDuff is not in this game for
the short term.
The McDuff file
1977 IPC, telesales executive, (NME)
1978 Practical Hi-Fi, advertising representative
1979 NME, ad sales executive
1981 New Generation, advertising sales executive
1982 Melody Maker, assistant advertising manager
1983 Melody Maker, advertising manager
1984 Holborn Group, assistant publisher
1987 NME, Melody Maker, publisher
1988 Holborn Group, group publisher
1991 Specialist Group, publishing director