By: Madalina Ciobanu
The brand has expanded its presence to include radio, podcasts and events, but it continues to invest in print products.
Andrew Tuck, the editor of Monocle, is confident the magazine is never going to have a Snapchat team.
In the decade since it was founded, Monocle has strived to make strategic decisions about where and when to invest in new products and initiatives, both editorially and commercially. Editorially, it launched Monocle 24, its 24-hour radio station, six years ago; it has branched out into events; and it's just getting to the end of a month-long experiment with print, the Monocle Summer Weekly.
Monocle now has about 110 employees across its departments, from finance to film, with bureaux in London, Istanbul, Tokyo, New York, Hong Kong, Zürich, Toronto and Singapore.
Monocle's target audience are people in late 20s to mid-40s, who get their news on their phones but who still enjoy reading books and magazines in print. The majority of its readers and listeners come from the US, followed by UK, Australia, Canada and Germany, so Monocle doesn't see itself as a UK magazine.
"We've been lucky in a way that our size isn't huge. It's forced us to make lots of sensible decisions," Tuck told Journalism.co.uk. While Snapchat might be a good tool for recruiting people, he added, Monocle "can't play that game" of investing resources in something that cannot be directly monetised, or that doesn't bring people into the main print product.
Radio as a way into print
This is one of the reasons why a 24-hour radio offering seemed like the obvious extension of the Monocle brand into digital back in 2011. The idea was to fill the gap between state broadcasters and commercial radio, Tuck said, through a station that brought together longform journalism, pop music and sponsorship opportunities.
Monocle 24 offers daily, weekly and weekend shows, as well as catch-up segments, on topics such as news, culture, entrepreneurship, urbanism and more. The radio segments also get turned into podcasts, which can be downloaded from the website or iTunes. An example is 'The Entrepreneurs', a weekly radio show following the stories of people starting their own companies.
"It's not Serial, but it has a consistent audience, and off the back of it we've done live events with the show. We do a conference every year where many of the people who appeared on that show come as speakers and guests, so it all weaves through the world of Monocle."
Between its radio listeners and those who download the podcasts, Monocle 24 reaches one million people every month, and the shows have been another way to introduce people to Monocle's core offering: the magazine.
"You might come across a show about urbanism, design or finance and they're all different routes into what we do. You may not even know the magazine until you've found the radio station.
"A magazine looks serious, you put ink on paper, you print it, it has an earnestness about it. Whereas exactly the same journalist is then heard on the radio and people realise they're funny and warm and engaging, so it's made Monocle quite a personable brand as well."
The magazine and the radio station have separate teams, but the resources often overlap, with some editors working across print, radio, films and events. The latter include pop-up radio stations and the annual Quality of Life conference, a three-day event with panel debates and visits to local businesses and entrepreneurs.
Making it 'deliberately difficult' to read the magazine online
On the Monocle website, people can download podcasts, watch films that often but not always reflect topics discussed in the magazine, or browse the online store. These are all things that are "enjoyable to watch or listen to on a big screen" for free, Tuck said, pointing out they "have made it deliberately difficult for people to read the magazine online".
Only three articles from each issue are made available on the website each month in order to encourage people to subscribe. A one-year subscription to the magazine costs £100, and includes 10 print issues of Monocle, as well as its two special print editions, The Forecast and The Escapist. Monocle currently has a circulation of 81,504 copies and counts 18,300 subscribers, with print advertising bringing in most of its revenue.
"We make sure we have other revenue streams: we have two cafes in London, one in Toyko, five shops around the world, an online e-commerce store, we're selling subscriptions... and those additional streams are important for us going forward. But in the end, do people like the magazine and buy it, and do people like your magazine and want to advertise in it?"
A limited-run print newspaper
Most recently, Monocle decided to try a limited-run experiment with print, reinventing its former lifestyle summer newspaper, Monocle Mediterraneo, and bringing it back for four weeks in August as the Monocle Summer Weekly. The idea came, in part, from an advertiser who expressed a desire to work with Monocle on a project similar to the Mediterraneo.
The four issues of the Summer Weekly (the last one is out this week) have been sold mainly in Europe, at resorts, airports and newsstands, targeting people on holiday.
"We wanted to have some fun with it and thought 'if you were starting from scratch with news print what would you do?' What if we tried to change the model and do a newspaper supported by the brands who like the magazine? There's still something about people seeing their ad poster-sized that encourages them to want to support a project like this."
Other than revenue from advertising, the project also brought in £20,000 within the first few days from readers who pre-ordered the four issues at a cost of £45 per bundle, Tyler Brûlé, the founder and editor-in-chief of Monocle, told Nieman Lab.
Working on a weekly rather than monthly deadline enabled Monocle correspondents to write stories that tied in with the news of the day. For example the third issue of the Summer Weekly included a piece on urbanism and the future of security in our cities related to the attacks in Barcelona.
Tuck said feedback from people has been positive and there are already conversations in the newsroom about bringing the project back as a winter newspaper, or giving it an eight-week or longer run next summer.
"[The Summer Weekly] has allowed a team of very good journalists in the office to have a clear snappy voice about things happening that day.
"We're not bound by the rules of however people have done newspapers in the past, so there is a bit of cheek and a bit more humour on the page compared to what other people might do."