Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Monocle Miracle

In 2007, Tyler Brûlé launched one of my favorite publications, the culture magazine Monocle. He couldn’t have chosen a worse time. The publishing industry, as it is today, was scrambling for a strategy for remaining lucrative in the face of the internet’s free-content revolution. Meanwhile, the global recession was about to strike.

All signs pointed to imminent failure for the magazine. Adding to the challenge was the fact that, at $150 a year, Monocle is far more expensive than traditional glossy magazines.

And yet, against impossible odds, Monocle has thrived. As this recent BusinessWeek profile of Brûlé points out:

Monocle boasts a global circulation nearing 150,000, a 35 percent annual increase at a time when magazine sales are supposed to be going in the other direction, and a rising subscription base of 16,000.

What accounts for Monocle’s unheard-of success? Simply put: priceless value. As with most magazines, Monocle isn’t an essential product. For households looking to cut corners, buying fewer magazines and newspapers is a no-brainer. According to the annual State of the News Media report, between 1998 and 2008, the number of magazines sold on newsstands dropped by 35%. In the last six months of 2009 alone, circulation for consumer magazines was down by 2.23%, while newsstand sales were down by a staggering 9.1%.

But there’s something about Monocle that thousands of people can’t live without; it’s a local/global thing in a completely original way; it’s surprising, unusual, welcome, useful, collectible, irreplaceable. It’s post-materialist, pro-sustainable and when you think after five minutes of watching CNN that the world is going to hell in a handbag, Monocle shows that life in a lot of places in the world is sane, progressive and cultured. This is priceless value: they help the world be a better place.

Monocle now has stores, and I hope they thrive as a sort of World General Store (they should hook up with Remo Giuffre in Sydney). Stores are the brand extension you always hoped for from a magazine but was never delivered. They see the natural and obvious connection between a magazine and retail.

Monocle has achieved this status because of Tyler Brûlé’s unwavering devotion to an idea. He surprised us beautifully in 1996 with Wallpaper*, and through his spirit of “radical curiosity”, Brûlé has shown again with Monocle that ideas rule the world.


Ian Sanders said...

Glad to hear you're a Monocle fan. I think it's a great read, it always inspires/stimulates and as you say, really bucks the trend that print publishing is dead. The Monocle guys have just published a full-format newspaper as a special edition for summer. It's called 'Monocle Mediterraneo' and is designed as a better-than-iPad-device that can be read on sun drenched terraces around the world.
If you love the elegance of printed newspapers you'll love this (the newsprint smells great too!)
you can get it here

Ricardo said...

Hello Mr. Kevin Roberts,

many thanks for using my photo and giving the right credits.