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Monocle embraces print, success

In a world where print seems to be suffering, how does one take an unabashedly print product û one that’s book-like, heavy and in-depth û and spin it into a success?

It helps to be Tyler Br?l?, the man who founded design magazine Wallpaper to great acclaim in 1996. However, more than trading on the power of Br?l?’s personal brand, his newest venture, Monocle, seems to thrive on Br?l?’s unwavering belief in the power of print.

“Print is at the core of what we do,” states Br?l?, matter-of-factly. “There are so many titles today that are in the print business but are an apology for being print û they promote their Web site more than the magazine, and they overdo it.”

November’s Monocle is, in fact, devoted to the topic of print, covering the redesign of the conservative German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, among other topics.

“I think if you’re going to be a magazine at the top of the market you have to be constant at what you’re doing,” Br?l? continues. “That’s why we’ve gone for bookish format, and that’s why the format engages you in 5 or 6 different types of paper. Print needs to be a tactile, exciting experience. I think you do have to come out swinging and say, æNo, there is a way of doing print, you have to do things that digital can’t do.’ It smells great and feels great, and we continue to make print relevant and modern.”

Monocle, a lengthy, matte magazine covering business, culture, travel and other interests of the jet-set crowd, has been garnering praise and since its debut in February 2007.

The magazine’s circulation is currently 150,000 and is sold in more than 50 countries. In a twist on the traditional subscription-sale model, the magazine charges a 50% premium on subscriptions. Part of this strategy derives from Monocle‘s global readership û all of whom pay the same rate for a subscription. As Br?l? explains, “We don’t think you should be punished just because you live in Canada.”

Monocle recently ran a week-long experiment with its own retail and coffee shop in Tokyo, trying to find a way to better control its own distribution. It has since received offers from five or six other locations to open similar venues.

The magazine relies heavily on Br?l?’s carefully-cultivated design aesthetic, which started with Wallpaper and followed him to Winkreative, his design agency.

“Design is hugely important, and not just to advertisers,” Br?l? asserts. “The reader wants information to be fresh and accurate and beautifully packaged, and that’s what’s different about the audience we’re speaking to – people’s standards are incredibly high.

“When you speak to advertisers as well, they want to ensure that their ads and their media strategy is going to be in synch with the title they’re occupying.”

In this spirit of this desired “synch-up,” Monocle has started running tie-in ads, integrated into the magazine’s format and on the Web site. It most recently partnered with Absolut Vodka for such a tie-in.

Other advertisers, particularly those for luxury goods, have also been responding positively to Monocle, possibly because they share a philosophy with Monocle about global brand cohesiveness.

“In an increasingly global world, we’re getting to a point where having regional ad campaigns doesn’t make sense in this market,” Br?l? contends. “People are traveling to different countries, so having four or five messages from same brand doesn’t work very well. Premium brands are very good at putting out one message around the world when it’s the same customer you want to speak to – it’s a one-stop shop.”

In spite of this pan-global view, the London-based Br?l? does have a particular take on American consumers; he feels that Monocle fills a gap in the US market for international news.

“There are tens of thousands of people in the US every day who have to board aircraft and do international business, and I don’t think they have the media tools,” Br?l? points out. “The domestic journalism in the US, the news agenda, is incredibly narrow, so there is a huge opportunity to target the American consumer who travels and is worldly and is looking for media outlets.”

Although Monocle is committed to its print product, it does keep up a Web site at http://www.monocle.com/. Br?l? calls this site “complementary” to the magazine.

“We want the magazine to do everything we think a magazine can do very well” elucidated Br?l?. “The Web not a great way to read everything, but it provides a cheap barrier for entry to become a broadcaster.”

Monocle‘s Web site features short films by documentary makers and covers events that fall between the cracks on its 10 times a year print schedule.

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