Qual è la strategia dietro a un successo editoriale come quello di Monocle? Lo racconta Niemen Lab in una lunga intervista al fondatore del magazine canadese Tyler Brûlé. Alla pubblicazione oggi si sono aggiunti negozi, caffè, edicole, e da questa primavera anche una radio.
“E’ importante ricordarsi e domandarsi se stiamo attraversando una crisi della stampa o del suo metodo di distribuzione – spiega Brûlé al giornalista che chi gli chiede come mai abbiano deciso di aprire un edicola -. Penso che almeno in parte ci troviamo di fronte alla seconda situazione”. “Siamo indipendenti e questo vuol dire che subiamo minori pressioni, in particolare di riduzione dei costi e di inseguimento continuo dei nuovi trend” continua il fondatore di Monocle “L’indipendenza ci ha consentito di aprire un caffé perché pensiamo che sia la cosa giusta da fare per il nostro brand e anche in termini di ritorno economico”.
La rivista però continua ad essere la principale fonte di guadagni: “Sì siamo tra le riviste più vendute nelle edicole inglesi”.
LONDON — It’s lunchtime on a Tuesday, and the Monocle Cafe in the Marylebone neighborhood here is packed. All but one of the tables in the cafe’s lower level is occupied while the counters and couches on the main level are filled with customers eating sandwiches and drinking coffee.
Monocle was initially conceived as a magazine in 2007 covering global affairs and a certain high-end global lifestyle. The brand has since grown to include Monocle 24, a 24-hour online radio station, retail shops in six cities around the world, cafes in London and Tokyo, and more.
“You’re in this like-minded environment, but it’s not exclusive,” said Tyler Brûlé, Monocle’s founder and editor-in-chief, of the London cafe. “You have to know about it — or maybe someone walks in off the street because they want a good cup of coffee. But there is a sort of clubbiness to it, and you see people sort of talking and meeting.”
I met Brûlé at Midori House, Monocle’s London headquarters a few blocks from the cafe, and as he guided me on a tour through the office it was easy to get a spacial sense of the company’s projects. On the ground floor were the two radio studios from which Monocle 24 broadcasts. One level up, the editorial team was closing the April issue of the magazine. On another floor, Winkreative, Brûlé’s creative studio, was finishing up a redesign of Z, the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung’s luxury supplement, and working on branding material for the Union Pearson Express, the new rail link connecting downtown Toronto and the city’s suburban airport.
Monocle was valued at about $115 million when the Japanese newspaper publisher Nikkei invested in the company last fall. Brûlé told me Monocle is “very profitable,” as the magazine has a circulation of about 80,000. (You can tell something about its audience’s habits and aspirations by noting it can describe an edition as “superyacht-sized.”
Brûlé said Monocle is considering adding new shops or cafes, but its next project, launching this spring, will be a Monocle newsstand near London’s Paddington Station. The kiosk will offer a curated selection of magazines and newspapers as well as global newspapers printed on-demand. Customers will be able to register online, request a printing of newspapers ranging from Norway’s Aftenbladet to The Australian, and then come to the newsstand to pick it up.
The newsstand is an experiment, but Brûlé said the company could create franchises and spin off the newsstand business if it succeeds. “It’s important for us to, I think, remind the market that — is it really a crisis of print, or is it a crisis of print distribution? And I would argue that part of it is the latter,” Brûlé told me.
What follows is a lightly edited and condensed transcript of our conversation, where Brûlé discussed the importance of print to his model, the thinking behind Monocle’s growth, and how he would approach The New York Times’ continued digital evolution.
Joseph Lichterman: Obviously, there’s the magazine. But with Monocle 24, the cafes, and the shops, it seems like what you’re doing is so much more than a magazine. I’m curious how you see all the extensions of the brand in terms of your mission at Monocle.
Tyler Brûlé.: I guess if you rewind eight years ago, we probably didn’t see cafes on the horizon. I don’t think we would have anticipated a radio station.
I guess I would say the first thing is that we’re in a very fortunate position that we’re an independent publisher and we don’t have the commercial pressures of a big parent. And those commercial pressures can be two-fold: One is cost savings, but the other pressures are to go and chase after every new trend. We don’t have an issue of some digital guru or a friend or an investor or a board member who says, Why aren’t you slapping that little bird on the bottom of every webpage and every printed page? And why aren’t you putting that white F on a blue background on everything? So I think that’s also a positive, that we don’t have that influence surrounding our brand, that we have to follow the dictates of a big parent corporation, and that’s been the great thing from the very start.
We see that independence is really incredibly important to us, and has allowed us to be in the luxurious position that we’re in today, where if we decide to do a cafe, we do a cafe — because we think it’s the right thing to do from a brand point of a view, and also from a revenue position. Whereas often times people will say that maybe that’s not core to a digital strategy, or they would be arguing that people aren’t going to be drinking coffee anymore because people are going to be consuming it digitally.
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