At 33 Andy Hart is the youngest managing director on metaphorical
Fleet Street, and he has a puppy-like enthusiasm for his work.
’I was so excited when Bert Hardy revealed why he had called me,’ he
says. ’I mean, it’s interesting just to meet someone of his stature, and
what a job!’ He sounds genuinely in awe of Press Holdings’ chief
executive, but is undaunted by a role that others might consider a
mission impossible, rather than an adventure in capitalism.
Having arrived at Sunday Business via media agencies and magazines,
Hart’s whole approach to selling a newspaper is refreshingly different
to that of his rivals. Where others obsess over the latest circulation
figures, Hart has other bugbears.
’Our challenges are time and apathy,’ he says, repeating the mantra
until he’s sure it’s in my notebook.
’Look at all this,’ he continues, shuffling a ten-inch high stack of
Sunday papers. ’There is just too much here, advertisers must be mad to
go into some of these - no-one is going to read most of the sections,
their ads will just get lost. That’s a selling point for us - we offer
our readers everything they want in a compact package.’
While acknowledging that it is important to scoop the other papers on
news - he even starts to recount recent victories - he insists that the
real competition is a whole range of media and not just other
Equally he refuses to become obsessed with circulation. The puppy-dog
bounce turns into a growl when I ask him to estimate the break-even
circulation figure. Of course, Sunday Business cannot sell on
circulation alone, which might explain why he doesn’t want to talk about
He could, however, easily point to its recent record ABC figures - up
nearly 9 per cent month on month - and to the fairly steady addition of
readers over the last year. But he insists that he is less bothered
about trying to add huge numbers to the circulation than he is about
’Keeping readers is what matters, the growth will come in time,’ he
But don’t those Barclay brothers set tough circulation targets? Doesn’t
the ghost of The European haunt him? ’No, the proprietors (he never
mentions David and Frederick Barclay by name) understand the product and
the time needed to establish it.’
Apart from loyalty, Sunday Business readers demonstrate another highly
desirable trait: high-earnings. On average each takes home more than
pounds 50,000, and that has given Hart and his sales lieutenants a solid
base to sell from.
In addition, Hart has recently overseen a change in sales structure,
which effectively gave The Scotsman Publications responsibility for
sales on Sunday Business. Although the Sunday Business and Scotsman
sales teams remain separate, putting senior members of the latter’s team
in charge of sales for both titles has made it possible to sell a
package to specific advertisers. It is an offer that has lured both BT
and GNER onto their pages.
Has Hart’s strategy worked? He has no doubt, pointing to a 300 per cent
increase in advertising revenues since he joined the paper a year
And if Sunday Business creeps into profit early in the next millennium,
Hart will be not only the youngest managing director on Fleet Street,
but also perhaps the most sought after.
Hart on David and Frederick Barclay
’We don’t really talk about the owners. But yes, they do show a keen
interest. I see them at least once a month. They are extremely
passionate and seriously smart.’