Observation | Monocle

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Over the past few months we’ve been out on the trail doing all the things a media company (most companies, for that matter) does at this time of year: jogging around the world telling clients what we’ve been up to and what we plan on doing, visiting our outposts to make sure all is ticking over nicely and plotting in quiet corners to figure out what will go on the front burner and what will end up in the chiller. In among all of this we managed to dip into the postbag and uncover a series of letters that we thought demanded responses. As we await a connection from Lisbon to Hong Kong via Zürich, here are some answers to a few of the most frequently asked questions that our editorial and commercial teams field.

Q: Why do you have shops and merchandise? Is it just a hobby or is it a real business?
We view our retail business as part csr programme, part service to our readers and part design exercise to keep our art department fit and nimble. As we’ve had products available since launch (you might recall that the debut issue featured the first bags we developed with Porter), it was always our intention to develop goods we felt our readers might be missing in the marketplace.

The Porter collaboration is a good example of a project that just keeps growing. We’re looking to expand it even further with the addition of another three bags over the coming months and the launch of a special corner at Porter’s new concept shop at Shinagawa station in Tokyo. Also on the horizon is the launch of a wood-and-brass desk set series that’s made entirely in the UK, as well as some essential items for travel. Finally, it’s most definitely a real business. Our retail helps underwrite our international editorial expansion.

Q: I’m a big fan of your seasonal newspapers mediterraneo and alpino. Have you ever thought about taking monocle weekly?
We think about it all the time! Isn’t there room for a global Sunday paper? We’d certainly like to edit it and I’m sure you’d love to read it. Logistics might be a bit of a challenge as we wouldn’t be able to cover the world but maybe we could start with our 10 biggest markets. We absolutely see an opportunity in this space but we need to do a bit of work on the numbers or raise a bit more capital.

Q: Why don’t you have more Africa coverage in the magazine?
We do plenty of Africa coverage – just leaf through back issues and you’ll see we’ve been everywhere. As we don’t favour any one patch of the planet it might seem that certain areas are ignored but it’s really not the case. Given our coverage is truly global, many markets feel they don’t get enough space on page.

Q: Why don’t you have more US coverage in monocle?
See above.

Q: Why don’t you have more Latin America coverage?
See above.

Q: Do you do tours of your headquarters? And if I wanted to have lunch with Robert Bound and Sophie Grove, how would I go about arranging this?
If you give us a bit of warning and ask nicely I’m sure something can be arranged. As for dining and drinking with Mr Bound and Ms Grove, were you hoping to see them together or separately? Mr Bound looks after his own diary so I’ll leave it to him to manage his affairs. Ms Grove is based in Istanbul and is shuttling all around the region so your best bet is securing a seat beside her on Turkish Airlines when she flies into London for production week.

Q: You seem to do a lot of events in the same cities – when are you coming to Warsaw?
When are you inviting us? We’d love to do an event in Warsaw as Poland is a growing market for us. We’d also like to do more business and design coverage from the country.

Q: Is it true that you’re working on a second book? If so, what’s it about and when will it be in bookshops?
Indeed we are working on a second book with our publishing partner Gestalten. Due out in September, our new book will focus on building a better business and will be full of benchmarks, start-up tips, branding cues and plenty of case studies. Keep an eye on this page and the website as you’ll be able to reserve a copy very soon.

Q: A friend was recently invited to a private evening at your London café. Was that a one-off or is it possible to hire it for private events?
If you’re based in London or happen to be passing through you can book the basement of the café for private events. So far we’ve mostly done breakfasts and lunches but we can also close the space for dinners in the evening. The good news is that we now have a licence so the wine cellar is becoming well stocked.

Q: Sometimes I pass newsstands with monocle awnings and branding across the front. Do you own these?
We would love to own a chain of newsstands around the world but for the moment we’re taking a sponsorship approach and buying up awnings from newsagents who want to give their façades a little boost. If you have a favourite newsstand you like and feel it’s time for a faded awning or sign to come down, do let us know and we’ll see if it makes sense.

All other questions can be sent along to me (tb@monocle.com) or my colleagues Helen (hp@monocle.om) and Kristoffer (kfp@monocle.com). Thank you for your support.

For more from our editor in chief, read his column in the ‘FT Weekend’.

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