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THE FASTER LANE / Tyler Brûlé

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By the time you get to the end of this column, many of the world’s key players in the business of publishing and distributing international press will have arrived in Zürich for a jamboree called Distripress. It may not have the same instantly recognisable brand value as Sundance or MIPIM or Art Basel but, when it comes to assembling the people responsible for getting magazines, newspapers and increasingly daily essentials to your desk, front door and nearby kiosk, this the most important summit of its kind.For over 20 years I’ve dipped in and out of these events as an editor, as a media owner and now, in the spirit of full disclosure, as the president of the organisation. It probably won’t come as much of a shock that this sector is not without its challenges as digital delivery puts pressure on the physical, free news replaces paid and many larger media houses are struggling with their identity. Should they be hoovers of content across multiple, segmented platforms? Trading sites masquerading as news brands? Or peddlers of cat stories, botched boob- and lip-jobs and maybe the very rare scoop?While the past 18 months have seen many a title and newsstand shutter, this period has also seen publishers and retailers snap to attention and rally to the challenge with impressive launches, acquisitions and results. Let’s do a quick spin around the neighbourhood and the globe.Down the street from our HQ in Zürich the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) has taken part of its ground-floor real estate and opened up a sprawling bar and restaurant space for morning coffees, early-evening drinks and late night spins around the tables. Not only has the paper created a living environment for its brand, it has also engineered a gathering place for Zürchers and visitors alike. While it might have a few too many screens and projectors for my liking, its opening hours (some days from 06.00 until 04.00) and branded events are a clever way to engage its audience and also give a jolt to its stretch of the city. For more on this see our November issue or keep your eyes peeled for our upcoming film.Step out of Le Bon Marché’s Grande Épicerie in Paris and you fall into one of my favourite newsstands in the world. During the pandemic, this St Germain institution took the time to renovate and in doing so created more display space for magazines. Rather than filling its space with more tourist tat and energy drinks, this is now one of the best homes in which to find a well-edited selection of the best titles from France and far, far beyond.Many might still be banging on about the positive, lasting effects of video calls et al but nothing beats being present. Proof of this is the power of Portugal’s kiosks and their role in getting papers, mags, scratchies and fags to their customers across the week. At Monocle we noticed our Portugal sales remain stable or even climb during the pandemic because it’s still very easy to find magazines and newspapers around the corner up and down the country. It might sound simple but it’s surprising how many in this industry have forgotten that if you don’t have sales outlets for magazines, people don’t purchase. Imagine!Staying in Portugal, Observador seems to be proving that you can do digital as a daily but you still need a print product to hook subscribers who have different habits. Likewise, Expresso has seen sales for its weekly title rise (the paper and its supplement come out on a Saturday) while in Hamburg, Die Zeit’s weekly sales have also jumped significantly in the past year. It also launched a spin-off food title under the keen eye of editorial director Christoph Amend.A bit further up the track in Copenhagen, the sharp management at Politiken recently bought design site Dezeen to not only internationalise its portfolio but also show that there’s muscle (and cash) to challenge the digital supremacy of the FAGs of the world – the kind found in a California valley, not those at the kiosk.

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