Andrew Hirsch: My Life In Media

'There is room in the UK for a truly outstanding Sunday paper. I think the Guardian group should drop The Observer in favour of a Sunday Guardian'
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The Independent Online

Andrew Hirsch, 47, is chief executive of John Brown Citrus Publishing, which produces some of the most successful customer magazines, including those for Sky, John Lewis, Mothercare and Woolworths. He didn't plan on a publishing career, joining his father's furniture business on leaving school. He later went into advertising sales before moving to Australia and setting up a media company, which produced a contract title for a Sydney hotel chain. He lives in north London with his wife and two children.

So what inspired you to embark on a career in the media?

I left school at 18 with very little in the way of qualifications, having set my heart on working for my dad's furniture factory in the East End of London. After eight years of sawdust I was keen to try something else. I knew David Knight, who was creative director at Geers Gross, the advertising agency. He thought that I'd find it hard going straight into an ad agency so he suggested that I sell advertising space first, which I did and rather enjoyed.

When you were 15 years old, which newspaper did your family get, and did you read it?

We always used to get the Daily Express. (My dad still does.) I probably read the sports pages.

And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

In those days, my favourite TV programmes were Columbo and Match of the Day, and on the radio I was always hooked to BBC sport. (I think it used to be on Radio 2 before all this fancy Five Live stuff.)

Describe your job

I spend most of my time meeting clients in the UK and around the world.

What media do you turn to first thing in the morning?

The Times and the Today programme on Radio 4. I read the sport and the business pages of The Times, which covers most of my conversations during the course of the day. I listen to Today while shaving, and occasionally on the drive in to work.

Do you consult any media sources during the working day?

On the internet I will check out the BBC website which is great for news, business and sports updates. Probably the best website by far.

What is the best thing about your job?

The very best bit about my job is I can choose my priorities for the day. Every day is very different, I like to be fantastically busy. Meeting our current clients and prospective new ones is always a highlight as well as the occasional long-haul business trip.

And the worst?

The temptation to look at my BlackBerry when I am on holiday.

How do you feel you influence the media?

My only influence is to encourage my staff to create better and better designed and written magazines. This may or may not influence others.

What's the proudest achievement in your working life?

Completing a management buyout at the end of 2004. It was probably one of the toughest things I have had to do. The levels of stress were enormous but I am delighted to have achieved it.

And what's your most embarrassing moment?

None that I want to - or can - remember.

At home, what do you tune in to?

Mostly I enjoy watching movies, and Sky Sports as well.

What is your Sunday paper? And do you have a favourite magazine?

The Sunday Times. Certain sections of the paper are good but I do think there is room in the UK for a truly outstanding Sunday paper. I think the Guardian group should drop The Observer in favour of a rebranded The Sunday Guardian with an outstanding business section. I am sure this would be a success. As for magazines, I tend to read my wife's Grazia or her copy of Waitrose Food Illustrated.

Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire

My main working ambition is to still be happily working and enjoying every day until the age of 60 when I hope to retire, but those who know me will probably think I will have trouble stopping then.

If you didn't work in the media what would you do?

I would quite like to take a year out with my wife and children and very slowly travel around the world. During these 12 months I would look for inspiration for my next job.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

Michael Baulk, who until recently was CEO of Abbott Mead Vickers. Despite his busy schedule, Michael always remains charming and genuinely interested in the people he meets and as CEO maintained over a 20-year period the very highest quality of work from his agency.

The cv

1987: Launches H&H Media in Sydney, Australia

1988: Advertisement manager, then rising to publishing director of Pearl and Dean Publishing

1992: Publisher, John Brown Publishing

1996: Sets up John Brown Contract Publishing and takes on the role of managing director

2001: Becomes chief executive, John Brown Contract Publishing

2004: Completes management buyout of John Brown Citrus Publishing, becoming chief executive