Print media might be faced with some serious challenges but it’s time to stop calling its relevance into question – that goes for newspapers too. In many markets the humble daily has never looked so good, in others there’s a bit of work to be done. If it was our money and we were going to launch the Monocle Daily, we’d be taking our cues from our favourite Italian broadsheet.
Italian television has a lot to answer for. All those jiggling variety show hostesses, shouting newsreaders, marathon talk shows, long-winded interviewers and badly dubbed TV shows make us forget about all the good in Italian media – excellence in book publishing, great filmmaking, quality magazines and innovative newspapers.
Whether it’s a complete media package such as business daily Il Sole 24 Ore and its pacy, smart radio channel or the timeless layouts of La Repubblica’s D magazine supplement or the power packed by the Corriere della Sera, Italy’s print media doesn’t get the attention it deserves. While the Spanish win awards for their outstanding information graphics and the British continue to congratulate themselves for thinking they do journalism best, the Italians go about the task of publishing dailies in a way which offers considerable inspiration for other markets.
Perhaps one of the most arresting and innovative publishing models is Il Foglio from Milan. While its circulation and pagination may be small (10,000 copies a day in a 12-page format), its influence is considerable and its concept thoroughly modern. A broadsheet in the truest sense of the word, Il Foglio’s dense cover and bulleted columns recall the old US edition of the The Wall Street Journal and early examples of The Independent. Built around interviews, features, comment and opinion, a normal edition might only boast one full page ad over 12 or 16 pages. The design of the paper says smart in a subtle, understated way and its limited distribution makes it more than just a media brand – it’s also a clever accessory to be clutched alongside a well-worn Valextra briefcase or tucked neatly into a Loro Piana storm jacket. Focused firmly at an elite audience who want to read, Il Foglio offers up many answers for the newspaper proprietor who’s not sure how to modernise or refocus his daily.
While the articles may not be short, the overall package is tight – despite the broadsheet format. From front cover through to back, the design is classic without being fussy and the choice of stories is a hard-to-beat combination of all the necessary topics with a healthy smattering of off and eclectic. In total, it’s a package that’s wholly unique to the Italian market but could just as easily work elsewhere.
For consumers who like the front section of the FT but can live without the Companies & Markets or for people who only visit 10 pages of The New York Times on any given day, Il Foglio has all the attributes to make it a media adjective, just like “Berliner” has come to define a format that many titles have adopted across Europe.
For this issue of Monocle we were given an exclusive peek into the re-engineering of one of the world’s most respected newspaper brands, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and also took the opportunity to see who else is challenging the now over-played ‘newspapers are dead’ mantra. In the Netherlands NRC Next is showing there is a way to fight off freesheets by taking the high ground with both pricing and content. In Japan, Fujisankei is playing with everything from paper to design to distribution model to reach an underserved audience of 20- to 30-year-olds.
In one of our earlier business plans we toyed with the idea of making Monocle a weekly but ultimately ended up with our current 10-a-year frequency. Having conducted our survey, however, we feel that the newspaper sector is so dynamic and offers so much opportunity that there’s plenty of room for the savvy and brave to shake things up. The Monocle Daily may not be turning up in your letterbox or on the stand at your local kiosk just yet but it has got us thinking.