How I Did It Jo Hoare, Editorial Director AS Watson

Jo Hoare

I always knew I wanted to write in some capacity. I just wasn’t sure what or how.

A love of books sent me to university to study for a degree in English Literature. A lack of knowledge about what to do next led me to continue onto a Master’s Degree, for which I wrote 20,000 words about the novels American Psycho and Fight Club. In a roomful of middle-aged women writing about the use of mirrors in Iris Murdoch or the significance of wildflowers in the poetry of the Romantics, my presentations on torture and violence stood out somewhat.

Post uni and I was still none the wiser about what I wanted to do. I spent six months working as an A&E receptionist in Oxford and then a secretary in a posh STI clinic in Harley Street (tales from which I still tell at dinner parties), before bumping into a woman at one of these parties who worked in magazines. She advised me to take a NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) course to learn the basics, then contact her for work experience. Four months later, with shorthand and an intricate understanding of how local councils worked under my belt (I’ve never used either, FYI), and my party pal gave me two weeks’ work experience at heat magazine. I ended up staying for the next 12 years, rising up from fashion assistant to style and beauty editor.

Working at heat at the peak of its success was an experience like no other. Shifting nearly a million copies a week was an incredible feeling and seems almost unthinkable in these challenging times for print. From flying to a private Caribbean Island for the launch of a haircare range to One Direction popping in the office to present us with cakes, every day felt like an adventure.

Once social media and tabloid websites hit, weekly magazines were harder places to be, and I left full-time magazine work to concentrate on book writing and freelancing for three years, publishing seven books on popular culture topics like Normcore and Hygge and writing for publications such as Grazia, Stylist and The Sunday Times Style.

I came to River as a freelancer in 2016 to work on a redesign of Superdrug’s DARE magazine, interviewing Sarah Jessica Parker for the cover and helping to develop a new tone, look and feel. As a brand, Superdrug echoed the fun I’d had at heat, and I came to River for further stints, working on projects like the Superdrug Christmas Gift Guide, before one of my proudest work moments: launching and editing a newsstand version of DARE in 2018. That newsstand title sold out of its entire print run, and when the job came up of editorial director across the whole account, I knew it was time to hang up my freelance hat. A year in and we’re three sell-out newsstand magazines, a chart-topping podcast and a year of incredible in-store editions down, with even more exciting stuff to come. 

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