by Corey Smith
Amid the organized chaos of international news reportage, cross-cultural entertainment and new media technology spreading worldwide, we sometimes forget to take a step back and look at who is actually producing the content. This post is dedicated to one of the perhaps lesser-known media outlets tackling international affairs, namely, Monocle.
Global Media Brand
If you haven’t heard of Monocle, it is a self-proclaimed “global media brand” featuring content in international affairs, business, culture and design. According to Monocle’s promotional video, it is expanding international reporting while many competitors are scaling back. Monocle currently has 16 foreign correspondents spread out across the globe with plenty of room to grow.
Launched in 2007 by creator Tyler Brule, Monocle is also a completely converged outfit. Monocle produces a hefty print magazine ten times a year, operates 24-hour radio programs and is consistently updating online content with podcasts and even a small video series launched in January 2011 featuring the latest in international topics.
With well over 15,000 subscribers worldwide and distribution to more than 30 global hubs (see complete list below), it seems like a great resource for anyone interested in international affairs. Well, maybe not for just anyone.
News for the Elite
Monocle doesn’t aim to be one of the CNNs, Global Posts, or BBCs of the world – its goal is a bit less focused on providing consistent and balanced news reportage to the masses and more focused on its niche audience. Call it what you will, but Monocle caters to a class of international elite, and it certainly isn’t trying to hide it. Stories feature emerging global markets, the 25 best cities for travel and luxury and profiles of high-end artists and designers.
Care for a taste of this aristocracy? Look no further than the latest issue of Monocle Magazine. A sampling of the coverage includes Georgia’s second biggest city booming into tourism, a big-name Japanese dance teacher working with South Korean stars, and the tallest structure in Poland.
Not exactly digging in with famine-stricken tribes in Ethiopia or from behind the Great Firewall of China, is it?
This doesn’t even touch upon Monocle’s other push – retail.
Monocle operates a shop at its headquarters in London as well as satellite stores in New York, Hong Kong, Beijing and Osaka. Empty out your wallet for these goods, as prices for items such as sweaters and vintage radios can cost more than ₤100. Monocle even dabbles with furniture and bicycles, costing readers nearly ₤400. The media company even broke news back in 2010 when it announced that the opening of its Hong Kong bureau was funded purely from the sale of tote bags.
A Critical Darling?
Despite what may seem like an elitist media franchise, Monocle is focused on its target audience and tactics. Ad Age named editor-in-chief Brule Editor of the Year in 2011 for creating a product that is “Foreign Policy meets Vanity Fair” and operating it in a multi-platform way. Monocle is also a valued partner with Bloomberg news service, producing content for Bloomberg TV and for broadcast internationally (and the video programs are also hosted by Brule).
Personally, I think Monocle provides high-level reporting and many of the articles are critical to those working within international affairs. I can see foreign service officers kicking up their heels on an evening with an issue of the magazine or listening to the 24-hour news service while in transit. It’s great for those who are working in the travel and tourism industries or any industry that has an international component, especially when it comes to forging business contracts abroad.
However, shouldn’t a magazine of this caliber want to at least try to cater to those not in such high positions? Perhaps they could not print on such high quality paper and lower their printing prices a tad or allow online visitors to read a certain number of back-issue articles before asking for a subscription.
Another area I think Monocle could improve upon is its international reach. In attempting to expand, Monocle needs to have more international distributors* in countries throughout Europe and on a smattering of other continents. Monocle should establish a Middle Eastern distributor in an area like the United Arab Emirates, branch out into Central Asia and have more distribution centers throughout Africa and Latin America. This would truly diversify the company and bring the brand to a more global audience. Monocle can still stick with the jet-setting theme, but if it’s applied universally throughout the world I can see it being a more balanced publication in both its reportage and marketing.
If Monocle wants to really live up to its tagline, keeping an eye on the world, then it should watch the whole world and not just areas and audiences where it has an interest.
*Monocle has distribution centers in the following countries: the U.S., Canada, Luxembourg, Australia, Brazil, Portugal, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Thailand.
(The photo is by Andre Ribeirinho of Lisbon, Portugal via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license. To see an example of Monocle on Bloomberg TV hosted by Tyler Brule, please see the report below on the business impact of Korean pop music.)