Business

Tyler Brule on Monocle: “We’re changing about 70% of the magazine.”

LONDON — The good news for Monocle readers is that the publication celebrates its tenth anniversary next month. The bad news — or at least, mildly disconcerting news — is that the milestone comes with a caveat: a significant overhaul to the magazine.

Playing the role of guest on his own radio show (Monocle 24’s “The Stack”) last weekend, Monocle chief Tyler Brule offered listeners a simultaneously jarring, and exciting, update on what the publication has in store for the occasion:

“We’re changing about 70 percent of the magazine. . . . Some favorite things are being deleted. Hopefully a lot of new favorites are being added. But there’s a lot of construction going on, that’s for sure.” (continued below…)

Stepping aside for a moment, keep this in mind: A decade in business is a remarkable achievement for Monocle, a property that’s staunchly print-focused and anti-digital (the magazine has no official Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram accounts — and Brule has been railing against social media for years). That’s especially true at a time when print has been purported to be on its death bed for the magazine’s entire lifetime, and as print editions from publications at existing publishers, particularly Conde Nast (Details, Self, Style.com, Lucky), have continued to fall down dead all around them.

What’s kept Monocle going then? You’ll note that the shuttered titles above are middle market affairs, with little differentiating them from the morass of glossies on the newsstand. Monocle’s approach — upmarket, niche, heavy matte paper stock, plus a blend of events, cafes, co-branded products, radio, and a high subscription rate (around $125 for a basic annual subscription) — makes the publication a different proposition compared to other magazines. Most publications are optimized for mass (whenever possible), which makes them beholden to advertisers over readers. Monocle’s model, though, is the exact opposite: its emphasis on community ensures that it’s fundamentally loyal to readers before advertisers.

That said, here’s what you need to know about the upcoming changes according to the paper (and audio) trail Tyler’s left this month:

  • The refresh has been in the works since November. That month in Zürich, powered by schnitzel, gulasch, and drinks, Brule, accompanied by creative director Richard Spencer Powell and editor Andrew Tuck, bunkered down in the Swiss town and got to work on the remake — both in design and in editorial direction.
  • Since then, they’ve been quite busy. Says Tyler in this month’s issue (appropriately, Issue No. 100): “Since [Zürich] we’ve been running a parallel editorial project. . . . [W]e’ve been meeting new photographers, scouting for a crop of fresh illustrators, tweaking grids, testing paper stocks, visiting print plants and lining up scores of commissions for new columns, sections, features and Q&As.”
  • Closing out the issue, he offers more specifics. He braces readers to expect bigger changes than the relatively conservative nipping and tucking that’s been carried out over the years: “If you’ve been with us from the start you know that we’ve evolved cautiously on page. We’ve held our ground, [and] gently…introduced  and deleted sections along the way. . . . Without giving to much away…I can promise longer reads, a new opening section, more media coverage, an expanded food-and-drink offer, more fashion, some newer paper to snap between your fingertips and a host of new regular beats in our Affairs pages.”
  • One thing readers don’t have to worry about? That cherished Monocle front cover: “We’re not getting rid of the black frame,” he assured listeners on the radio show.

Why this matters: Monocle magazine is a mainstay in the modern luxury community. Taking a scalpel and a bone saw to a publication that many readers have held dear since 2007 could be quite risky. Even though the track record of the Brule team on matters of designs is unquestionably strong, we’ll be watching how this comes together for the March issue — and how readers, particularly those within the modern luxury space, respond to the facelift.

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