A decade on from its debut show, the always-on radio station that is Monocle 24 has become a much-loved and influential global broadcaster. Here’s how we did it.
Anniversaries sneak up on you. Monocle 24 turns 10 this month but with a 24/7 schedule, three daily news shows and more than 30 premieres every week, it would be easy to lose track of time. A decade ago, the podcast scene was very different to what it is now. But in the deluge of new audio initiatives, Monocle 24 has kept an authoritative voice that has made it special from day one. Much has changed but this principle will continue to guide the station into an exciting future.
Picture the scene. It’s a summer’s day in London in 2011. A group of editors are deep in conversation about growing the burgeoning media brand that they’ve built – and growing it in a more imaginative way than manipulating a magazine until it fits a screen but loses its lustre. One of their number points out that the team has already been making a whip-smart weekly podcast for the past couple of years. It follows, he suggests, warming to his theme, that they go right ahead and launch a full-service, seven days a week, 24 hours a day radio station before the year is out. After all, could anything amplify the voice of a confident brand better than radio?
“I have spoken to everyone from Amanda Lear to Gilberto Gil but the best thing is our friendly team”
Fast-forward to later that same year: a smart suite of studios is receiving its finishing touches; the magazine crew has been bolstered by a host of hungry Monocle 24 recruits and a fairly ambitious launch date – 17 October – is heavily ringed in red in diaries and on calendars. The radio dream is becoming a reality. The launch brief was to deliver the authority and smarts of public service broadcasting with a friendlier, more curious and conversational tone. Mission Monocle 24 was accomplished that autumn, albeit with some hair-raising moments, many sleepless nights and a litany of nerve-jangling technical leaps of faith along the way. It was a steep learning curve but at the summit was audio gold.
“Monocle 24 and its audience is a global community.You can’t find an experience like this elsewhere”
At the time, monocle’s editorial director, Tyler Brûlé, explained that radio was “still the most intimate medium in an ever-expanding buffet of choice”. And in the decade since, we are proud of the way that we’ve refined the recipe. Today there’s something for every palate, with long-running news shows such as The Globalist, The Briefing and The Daily, and magazine programmes including The Urbanist and The Entrepreneurs, joined by a steady stream of exciting and innovative additions.
In 2011, the podcast landscape was inchoate, and few could have foreseen the astonishing growth of the sector in the decade ahead. Monocle 24’s blend of radio’s linear discipline and structure with podcasting’s more catholic, pick-and-mix approach is undoubtedly one of the secrets to its success. Another is the way that it brought together the metabolism and intensity of the traditional newsroom with the journalistic rigour and gentle authority that is monocle’s print signature.
“It’s the only talk-radio station that doesn’t give me a headache. And I’d say that even if I didn’t work here”
Andrew Mueller, presenter
Listening to reason
There have been some amazing milestones. We’ve launched more than 60 new shows and podcasts and have broadcast nearly 88,000 hours of audio. Monocle 24 produces more programmes and podcasts every week than any comparable media house. We’ve broadcast to the world from a radio-equipped bureaux network in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Zürich, Toronto, New York and Los Angeles; we’ve aired dispatches from monocle’s global correspondents in scores of cities across five continents; and we’ve taken our show on the road, with outside broadcasts from the snowy mountain tops of St Moritz to the sun-kissed seaside of Sydney – and pretty much everywhere else in between.
As well as the best coverage of entrepreneurship, culture, design, media and urbanism, our hugely talented news team has consistently delivered award-winning coverage, reportage and analysis to our international listeners.
“I love how international Monocle 24 is, from the producers and contributors to the places we go”
Sam Impey, head of production
Monocle 24 now has an unrivalled pool of experts on hand to make sense of turbulent times. The coronavirus crisis might have created a more or less captive audience but the fact that discerning listeners came to Monocle 24 in unprecedented numbers speaks volumes for the quality of the fare.
With the programme
Central to the success of Monocle 24, along with the unparalleled editorial offering, has been the relationships that the station has built with its partners. These comprise some particularly far-sighted international companies; a family of premium brands that, right from the start, recognised the importance of great storytelling, setting the right tone and the relentless pursuit of opportunity.
“Radio added greater warmth to Monocle. The intimacy of audio makes powerful connections”
Andrew Tuck, editor in chief
Now hear this
The final piece of the puzzle is, of course, the most important of all: our listeners, worldwide, many of whom have been with us from the very first second on air. Where are we taking them next? Well, you’ll have to stay tuned to find out. Be assured that we are as passionate as ever about continuing a global conversation, delving into more long-form storytelling, expanding our reach and playing to ever bigger audiences, all while cementing our hard-won reputation for the best in news, features, documentaries and smart narratives. Here’s to the next 10 years.
It all started with a tight but determined crew that was willing to take on a new challenge. Today, Monocle 24 is a round-the-clock radio station with a global network of bureaux and correspondents – and audience. We look back on many milestones.
First edition of The Monocle Weekly podcast, hosted by Tyler Brûlé, Andrew Tuck and Robert Bound. In the launch programme, the team looks at the global landscape for the year ahead, speaks to the director general of Norway’s ministry of finance, and hears from philosopher Alain de Botton, who explains why happiness is more important than watching your salary.
After plenty of sleepless nights, Monocle 24 goes live. Supported by a sponsorship with Rolex, the station debuts with four news shows a day: The Globalist, The Briefing, Midori House and The Monocle Daily. Recording the station’s idents and sweeps is none other than Kylie Minogue, and Scandi-jazz powerhouse The Quiet Nights Orchestra is in charge of the theme music.
The beginning of a syndicating deal with cbc means that the Canadian public broadcaster plays Monocle 24’s programmes overnight. Australia’s abc syndicates our station’s content and provides overnight newsreads with an apac focus in return.
Monocle 24 heads out of the cosy walls of the studio for its first outside broadcast in Washington. Guests include Al Arabiya’s Washington correspondent Hisham Melhem, as well as our long-serving monocle correspondent Sasha Issenberg.
As the Olympic Games arrive in London, the team heads out to visit the countries’ “houses” in the city, from Denmark to Canada, Jamaica and Russia. Our Canadian foothold strengthens with the opening of our bureau in Toronto’s Little Italy – an office-cum-radio outpost fronted by a shop that quickly becomes a cornerstone of the neighbourhood.
The crew embarks on a Nordic marathon to celebrate the magazine’s Arctic-themed issue. Resident Finn Markus Hippi produces four outside broadcasts in four days across four capitals: Stockholm, Oslo, Copenhagen and Helsinki. The show also gets on the road in North America, jumping between Vancouver, Seattle and Portland in just as many days.
Fernando Augusto Pacheco heads to Malmö to report on the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time, laying the foundations for years of enthusiastic coverage of the event.
Our most-awarded, highest-rated programme makes its debut: The Foreign Desk begins life with an episode on austerity. It goes on to cover issues across the globe, from the Tigray crisis to the fall of Kabul.
monocle’s Tokyo outpost swaps glitzy Omotesando for leafy Tomigaya, giving the team a roomier set-up for live crosses. ubs comes on board as an anchor partner and to launch finance show The Bulletin with UBS. Monocle 24 underscores its reputation as the home for premium brands in audio and a hub for editorial innovation.
The first ever Monocle Quality of Life Conference brings global experts and delegates to Lisbon to discuss what makes cities and businesses tick. Monocle 24 is on hand to broadcast panels and highlights.
A chat with designer Erik Spiekermann kickstarts our series of The Big Interview. The show goes on to host Norman Foster, Ian McKellen, Marina Abramovic and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and more.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack on the Bataclan club in Paris, the team heads to the scene and reports from the ground. The following year it provides the same level of on-the-beat reporting from Brussels.
The Entrepreneurs: Live is the first in a series of podcasts recorded at Midori House’s event space in front of a keen audience. Editions of The Menu, Monocle on Design and The Foreign Desk also follow.
Saint Etienne is one of many artist to record a live session at Midori House. When the set-up is too big for the studio, groups such as Hanson and Bebel Gilberto take over the event space, treating the team to a gig.
The Foreign Desk is crowned best current affairs podcast at the British Podcast Awards.
The design team gets involved in our most ambitious set-up yet: the Zürich HQ is kitted out with a state-of-the-art studio that can be peeked into from the street. It goes on to host round-table discussions every weekend for Monocle on Sunday.
We team up with Chanel for the last-ever interview with Karl Lagerfeld. The team heads to Milan for an all-singing, all-dancing, week-long outside broadcast in partnership with Hyundai for the world’s biggest furniture fair, Salone del Mobile. Designers, experts and journalists take their turns in front of our microphones.
A level-headed, authoritative voice through the pandemic attracts a wider audience.
Monocle 24’s commercial project The Power of Sound is nominated for some of the top audio prizes in the UK, pushing forward the network’s creative efforts.
Many of Monocle 24’s programmes, from The Urbanist to Monocle on Design and Monocle on Culture, celebrate their 500th episodes with special editions.
A selection of some of the notable voices that have shared their insights on Monocle 24.
The investigative journalist became the first female Washington correspondent for The Wall Street Journal in 1984 and has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1995. She talked to us about corruption in Washington and her determination to expose the truth.
The director of the Oscar-winning Moonlight talked about the responsibility that comes with having a voice.
On the eve of Chanel’s autumn/winter show at New York’s Moma, the late Karl Lagerfeld spoke to us about his principles of design and shared the secrets of his success.
The creative director sat down to discuss the importance of good design in social projects.
The man behind the three-Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana talked to us about the role of a chef as an agent of change.
Photographers: Trisha Ward, Andrew Urwin, Benjamin McMahon, Shin Miura, Felix Brüggemann, Veronique Hoegger, François Cavelier, Kate Warren, Gianfranco Gallucci, Claudia Ferri