Editor’s letter | Monocle

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We’ll start this issue with a bit of a New Year’s clean up. As we did some much needed housekeeping at our Midori House HQ and our outposts, our desks, shelves and lockers are in pretty good shape. What is in need of some proper attention are a few questions and misconceptions that concern monocle’s views on media and our position in the market in general. As it’s key to be as thorough as possible in this area, allow me to address a couple of points head on and hopefully this will not only help frame this issue but inform our overall house view.

You seem obsessed with paper but also do a lot of digital projects, so do you consider yourself an old or new media brand?
Our editor Andrew Tuck has this one fully covered when he says that there’s no such thing as old or new media, just media in general. He’s spot on in his assessment for a variety of reasons. First, many corners are looking increasingly relevant and modern in the midst of a digital onslaught. At the same time, many new ventures have the habit of looking old and clunky before they even manage to get out of the gate. The market is moving so quickly that it’s hard (and inaccurate) to just bundle digitally focused companies into the “new” camp. As for monocle, we’re very happy to work at multiple speeds and feel our core strength is having tens of thousands of books printed annually for consumption at one’s leisure while also turning out hourly audio bulletins to capture your attention when you’re looking for something snappier but still delivered in our tone.

Why aren’t you on Instagram or other social media?
Simple. I see social media as competition and I don’t feel like lining the coffers of the companies who are good at taking both traffic and ad revenue from our business. Instagram might be good for driving awareness or maybe not. It might be good for sending new readers our way but I think people who are in an Instagram world are unlikely to become signed-up readers. They might buy one or two products but I don’t feel the need to open up our market to their audience or anyone else’s. Perhaps more importantly I think good brands are a little bit mysterious and shouldn’t reveal too much. The problem with social media and being constantly “on” is that it inevitably forces you to say more than you might like to. Could we be bigger by posting a steady flow of comment? I have no idea and I’m not willing to mess with a model that’s served us well since launch.

You’ve gone on record as saying local and regional newspapers still have a future. Why?
I say this because it’s true. As collapsing and disconnected communities are increasingly put into focus, the voice that binds together neighbourhoods, businesses, policies and opportunities is more necessary than ever. In many cities strong local newspapers have done a good job of keeping the digital beasts at bay by delivering real news and opinion backed by an underlay of trust. As many new outlets attempt to build trust by co-opting less-than-trustworthy, (read: inexpensive) sources there is room for existing local news players to use proximity and intimacy to own their markets rather than handing them over to those who are disconnected. If they think brand alone will allow them to power through, it won’t.

Does the kiosk have a future in a world of home delivery?
Tricky question, in part because home delivery hasn’t been all that brilliant for businesses that thought direct-to-door would mean guaranteed success. I’m quite sure that there are many millions of people who’d like to get up in the morning and walk into a little shop where they can buy a paper, have a coffee (maybe a cheeky cigarette?) and a conversation surrounded by like-minded people. It’s for this reason (yes, these are illustrations of me going about my kiosk-keeping duties) that we’re opening such a set-up in Zürich and have a couple in the works in Asia.

And are you planning another media conference this year?
Absolutely. We’ll be back again with a new edition in London in February and we’re also considering a couple of extra venues in other markets. Sign up for our newsletters and bulletins at monocle.com/minute.

For more stories from the frontlines of modern media you’ll find this month’s pages packed with interviews, profiles and reports on editors, entrepreneurs and animators who are doing things differently. As this is hiring and intern-selection season at Monocle, please visit our site – monocle.com/about/jobs – for opportunities in London and other bureaux. If you have any queries and comments then do drop me a note at tb@monocle.com. Thank you for your support. 

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