The Global Media Weekly for executives and entrepreneurs

How I do it:  Jonny Wright, Hearst Magazines

Jonathan (Jonny) Wright was appointed president of Hearst Magazines International in October last year after more than a decade at Dow Jones, latterly as Global Managing Director. Earlier in his career, he was a director of Euromoney Institutional Investor, in New York. He is now responsible for an international portfolio of seven wholly-owned companies, seven JVs, and 43 magazine licensees across 40 countries.

The largest of Hearst’s wholly-owned international magazine businesses is also its oldest non-US company, in London. Wright is expected shortly to announce the appointment of a new leader there, following the unexplained departure of CEO James Wildman in 2021. The challenges for the 112-year-old, £120m-revenue Hearst UK (formerly known as The National Magazine Company) will be reflected in the digital track record of the new CEO.

Wright’s own achievements at Dow Jones imply he will be keen to build membership programs for Hearst magazine and digital customers around the world. He may also want to develop Hearst Institute’s testing, research and accreditation, in London, into a fully-fledged B2B information and events business. (Imagine what they could do in combination with trend forecaster WGSN, if Ascential Plc decides to sell). The British-born Wright is based in New York and graduated from Bangor University, in Wales.

What were your early career ambitions and what happened to them?

When I graduated university, I knew I wanted to enjoy myself and contribute to the priorities of whatever organization I joined. Having spent the last 22 years living in the US, Europe and Asia — working for some of the industry’s leading brands and publications — I feel confident I’m on the right track. I am as committed to quality content and the creation and engagement of audiences as I ever have been. In that sense, my ambitions and drive are as strong as they were back at the beginning.

What was your first job in media and what did it teach you?

It was with a contract magazine publisher in Islington, London. I answered a job ad in the London Evening Standard and didn’t realise my interview was effectively the phone call I made to the company enquiring about the job. I began selling advertising for a variety of publications, including the BAFTA magazine, Living Well Life (Hilton) and The Honda Tennis Challenge. I took away a lot of lessons from that first job, which I still utalise today: Work hard, be enthusiastic, do your best, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and learn from others.

How did your career at Dow Jones help to equip you for your role at Hearst?

Having left Dow Jones almost a year ago, after an 11-year career, I look back very fondly on my time there. Starting as the head of advertising sales on Financial News in London, I was fortunate to have a varied career, which included launching WSJ Pro, becoming publisher of the Asia and Europe editions of the Wall Street Journal, launching the commercial partnership business, becoming global managing director and working across a number of Dow Jones and NewsCorp interests and ventures. All of that to say, I was exposed to several different parts of the business, all of which prepared me well for my role at Hearst Magazines.

My experience working with teams and partners around the world gave me a keen understanding of both the challenges and opportunities that come with being part of a global media business.

What’s so special about Hearst?

Hearst Corporation, which is celebrating its 135th year anniversary this year, is a textbook lesson in the pursuit of quality and diversification. I admire its steadfast commitment to the businesses on which the company was founded, and its ability to embrace change and diversify into new areas, most recently in the data and B2B space.

The Hearst Magazines division is one of those early businesses that is as important to Hearst now as its always been. I am privileged to work closely with Debi Chirichella (President, Hearst Magazines) and her leadership team in the US to build and execute the global opportunity for Hearst Magazines. And to work alongside so many incredibly talented people around the globe as we continue to build the future for our portfolio of brands (local and international). 

How far has digitalisation disrupted the traditional pattern of Hearst magazine licensing?

The media industry remains one of the most disrupted industries in the world. Digitalization has eradicated boundaries, allowing greater understanding of our audiences and stimulated iterations on the traditional business models. It is and continues to represent a great opportunity for quality brands like ours around the world and is integral to the way we work with partners and licensees driving mutual growth.

What is your own primary role?

I work with our regional CEOs and businesses in the UK, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Japan, Taiwan and China, our licensees and joint venture partners around the globe along with our Hearst Magazines International leadership team in the US, which works across operations, editorial, brand and strategy to identify and deliver growth. Critically, this has to be done in lock step with our US business, which means an equally important aspect of my role is to ensure connectivity, transparency and collaboration.

What’s the future of printed magazines and how will they change?

Print magazines are an important medium which our readers enjoy engaging with and, as a direct result, through which our advertisers continue to engage with our audience. As you review the latest fashion trends, plan to redecorate that spare room or read the essay on Jambon-Beurre in the latest edition of Esquire UK, it’s clear that sometimes a quality print product simply cannot be beaten. Print publications will be available via subscription or on a newsstand near you for many, many years to come.

What is the most important lesson you have learned?

Assume good intentions.

Which companies other than Hearst do you most admire?

I admire companies that create things and are committed to their mission. Whether that be a start- up, such as SunGod taking on the sunglasses business, or the likes of  Tortoise and The News Movement in the news space. I cheer them all on from the sidelines and wish them all the success they deserve.

Further reading: How Frank Bennack ‘made’ Hearst