OPINION: QUESTION TIME WITH ... Andy Hart - Fleet Street’s freshest boss has a taste for adventure capitalism

At 33 Andy Hart is the youngest managing director on metaphorical Fleet Street, and he has a puppy-like enthusiasm for his work.

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

newspapers.



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

it.



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

reader loyalty.



’Keeping readers is what matters, the growth will come in time,’ he

assures.



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

ago.



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.’



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