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Monocle's Tyler Brûlé: still believing in premium print

Monocle's Tyler Brûlé: still believing in premium print

"The issue is not about whether we're going to be reading off of paper or whether we'll be reading off backlit screens or whether we're going to be reading on the moon. The future belongs to visionary and courageous people to get the power back to the editorial floor".

Thus spoke Tyler Brûlé, the founder of Monocle Magazine, interviewed by Gopher Illustrated about his magazine and the business model behind it.

Brûlé founded Monocle in 2007 after having founded and directed the magazine Wallpaper*. Monocle, which has become not only a magazine but also a brand, bases its economic model on high quality content in a glossy, bookish, printed format.

As Business Week reported last year, in 2010 Monocle, three years old, boasted a global circulation nearing 150,000, a 35 percent annual increase at a time when magazine sales were supposed to be going in other direction, and a rising subscription base of 16,000. "If that sounds small, consider that these individuals pay $150 for 10 issues, a 50 percent premium over the newsstand price", the article said.

The problems print industry is facing are not simply referable to a fight between print and digital, Brûlé said in the Gopher Illustrated's interview. They predate the situation that we're in today, which predates economic collapse and all of this predates the arrival of the iPad or the rise of the web. He dated the beginning of the problems back to late 80's.

"Everything we saw in the United States then was the corporatization of the editorial floor. We saw the consolidation of a lot of magazine businesses and a lot of newspapers. Family publishing companies selling up to bigger corporations, bigger corporations of course worried about shareholder value and to bring in shareholder value you need to bring in more consultants, consultants suggests that we should replace editors with accountants and that's where we are today", he said to Gopher.

As noted, Monocle became also a brand with shops, trousers, candles, and furniture and, as Brûlé said, the shops allowed them to create a sense of community and clubiness around the brand. "It became our response to social networking. We don't need [to use them] because we have shops where our readers gather and meet each other, we have cocktails parties in those shops. We do do social networking, it just doesn't have to be hosted or facilitated by MySpace, Facebook, Twitter or anybody else", he said.

Asked about the role of newsstands, Brûlé answered that distribution chain is another of the problems afflicting the print industry today. "I think that one of the biggest areas that is flawed at the moment, is our proper venues, [we need] passionate venues that sell magazines, so one area that we're looking at is, as you rightly brought up, is kiosks". They would be different from Monocle's existing shops, he explained. "We would have other things that you could find in a kiosk to buy, which would be designed by us or they would be curated by us but it would have a different price point, and yes, it would be aligned with the expression of our brand, so is something we're looking at the moment".

An important strong point is the subscription model, which differs significantly from those of many other magazines. As the interviewer noted, Monocle does the opposite of the others: instead of offering discounts, it offer more content for more money. "I think we really deliver great content and it's expensive content and it's all original so why shouldn't we charge a premium for that?"

Analysing Monocle's strong business points, in 2009 Really Practical Marketing noted that "by combining top quality content with an innovative approach to the business of magazine publishing, Monocle is successfully navigating the rapidly expanding graveyard of print titles". It has successfully blended print with online, as well as content with advertising. The article noted: "indeed the sponsored content, both online and off, is a perfect example of how content can be effectively blended with a commercial purpose. The features are relevant, add real value and are of the highest calibre. The sponsors are well-matched to the topic and branding is low-key enough so as not to shout 'advertorial'".

Sources: Gopher Illustrated, Business Week, Really Practical Marketing



Federica Cherubini


2011-04-27 18:21

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