Observation | Monocle

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“Well,” I started patiently. “We’ve developed a brand that employs both formats and uses them to the best of their abilities. Paper and ink for pictures and words, the web for audio and video.” “But hasn’t print had its day?” chirped a journalist from Zürich.

“If it has then why are you still hanging around your newspaper?” I asked. “I think it’s more a case of media owners forgetting how to innovate with paper, and the web has provided a perfect excuse for a market that’s been stagnating for far too long.”

Over the past year you might have ­noticed a subtle theme punctuating our issues. While we’ve never been heavy-handed with our message, we ­believe that in a world often preoccupied with chasing the next digital revolution there is considerable scope to innovate using more traditional tools and communication channels. Moreover, we believe there is an urgent need to encourage a culture of craft. See our ­digital vs analogue story on page 108.

When Monocle hit the streets a year ago there were two common themes in the correspondence we received from readers – words of encouragement thanking us for developing something global, optimistic and celebrity-free and flattering little notes exclaiming a fondness for the paper and format. Shortly after our launch other publishers started asking us what type of research we conducted to come up with such a diverse mix of papers and different format. Was this what consumers were searching for on the newsstand today? Needless to say we didn’t bother returning their phone calls or accepting the lunch invitations because it should have been obvious that Monocle wasn’t developed via a series of focus groups or blind touch-tests with consumers fondling various paper stocks.

When we started doing paper and print tests in early 2006 it was clear that consumers who spend much of their time punching plastic keys or tickling back-lit touch-screens would want a somewhat heightened experience when they purchased a print product. Likewise, when they visited our website they wouldn’t want to be presented with a concept that was simply putting the articles online and replicating many of the things that ink and paper still do better.

Moving Monocle from story conference in London to newsstands around the world is more than a logistical challenge. Every month our printer in Dorset binds and bundles some 150,000 copies of the magazine and then gets them onto pallets and into containers for shipment around the world.

Then 747 freighters whisk us onto newsstands in Japan and Singapore faster than we make it into shops on the continent. In Australia consumers can either purchase the air-freight edition at considerable cost or wait for the slow-boat to arrive with the regular priced copies. There’s also a steadily growing community of over 6,000 subscribers in 82 countries. (For our subscribers in Afghanistan, we’re keen to hear how long it takes for the magazine to arrive and what shape it’s in when you retrieve it from your letterbox.)

This year we reported from over 105 countries and in the months to come we’ll expand our coverage in Latin America as we search for an appropriate piece of real estate in São Paulo for a bureau and build our correspondent network in the region. To accompany our next nine issues we’ll be adding more special editions (aviation and design are up next) and on the broadcast side of Monocle we’ll be upping the number of films we put online every week (both on monocle.com and iTunes) while also developing dedicated programmes with weekly and monthly frequencies. To make all of this happen we’ll be joined by a foreign editor, web producer and additional correspondents.

Outside working hours we’re hoping to host a few cocktail parties in our main markets to meet our subscribers and ­exchange ideas. Having already held one event in London, next up are Tokyo, Zürich and Copenhagen and subscribers will be receiving invitations over the coming months. If you have any questions, comments or story tips drop me a note at tb@monocle.com. From all of us at Monocle, thank you for an outstanding first year.

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