A couple of days before this issue shipped off to the printers I flew out to Toronto to catch up with our new bureau chief Tomos Lewis (recently transferred from his corner desk post at Midori House to our office on College Street), meet some clients and poke around some of the city’s more interesting neighbourhoods. Normally I stay till the very last page leaves the building but with Dan, Jackie, Emma, Rich and Andrew all on the case in London, I knew all would be under control and I could get on with my Toronto check-in.
On day three of my visit I was chatting with our correspondent Christopher Frey while also keeping an eye on the comings and goings in our shop. In case you haven’t paid a visit to Toronto, the bureau set-up follows the same format as Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore: shop in the front and offices/radio facilities for monocle and our sister company Winkreative in the back. Normally Monday afternoons on our stretch of College Street are quiet so I was surprised when there was a sudden rush of customers trying on jackets and sampling the wares. After a few questions about various products and some more try-ons the shoppers left and I slid open the door to ask who they were. “Very nice visitors from Buffalo,” said my colleague. “They’re really big fans of the magazine.”
Just a few minutes later the young Buffalonian popped back in to take a snap of the jacket he was admiring and also took the opportunity to offer up some words of praise and thanks to Tomos and me for our editorial endeavours. I asked him what he did in Buffalo and he said he was in high school and about to graduate. I must have looked surprised as the young gentleman was about twice as tall as me (yes, 12 feet!) but I did my best to try to conceal my disbelief while he explained that he’d be heading off to the University of Pennsylvania next autumn and how much he enjoyed various aspects of the magazine.
After we said our goodbyes to the young American we had a brief discussion about the towering heights of 21st-century youth while another colleague couldn’t resist adding. “They sure do grow ’em big in the States.” Several hours later a very polite email from the gent arrived in our inboxes thanking us for taking the time to talk and outlining specific things he liked about the various aspects of our business (wisely highlighting that my Saturday radio show The Stack was among his favourites). While he also mentioned that he enjoyed our executive editor Steve Bloomfield’s show The Foreign Desk, I was already thinking about how this sharp resident from Buffalo could fashion himself as a poster child for the print industry.
Did he really need to head off to an Ivy League school when he could probably embark on a career as a spokesperson for paper and media companies? He could prove that young people not only read magazines but they even buy them off newsstands and take out subscriptions. Here was a 17-year-old (perhaps younger or a bit older) who was a paid-up reader of our title (and no doubt many others), clearly a big advocate and no doubt surrounded by other like-minded friends who also enjoy the snap of paper and ink between their fingertips.
Talk to many a media owner and ad agency exec and they’d have you believe that no such market exists. “This new generation isn’t into buying magazines; in fact they don’t like to pay for anything when it comes to content.” That’s the all too familiar and rather lame refrain from media planners who only want to purchase ad space that comes with guaranteed clicks and media bosses who’ve retreated into the corner because they’ve either been beaten into submission by digital consultants or simply run out of ideas. While there might be some truth in the latter bit about wanting everything for free, that’s not solely the domain of modern youth but even newspaper editors who think there’s a business model in giving away all their well-researched stories and exclusive interviews.
For the record, there are plenty of people south of 20 who are keen consumers of fine journals, lurid manga, gossipy trash and weekend newspapers. The main problem for them, like many others, is that there are too few retailers committed to offering an exciting array of things to read and a misguided view that if you were born after 1995 you’re only interested in consuming words and pictures off a backlit screen. Thankfully, good retailers such as Soda from Munich (and now in Berlin), Papercut in Stockholm and My Bookshop in Melbourne know that a smart range of materials attracts loyal customers and brings in a fresh audience.
By the time you finish reading this issue we’ll also be about to throw open the doors on our new Kioskafé concept in London’s Paddington. If you’re in town toward the end of May, we look forward to filling your tote with some excellent journals. If you’d like more information, send a note to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or my colleague Helen Pipins (email@example.com). Thank you for your support.