It was all going so swimmingly. After a three-day senior-management summit in Forte dei Marmi in mid-June we’d plotted out the next chapter for monocle, topped up our wardrobes at Zöe in Pietrasanta and improved our tans. We were all set to take on the next 10 years of publishing, broadcasting and retailing. We’d agreed on the phasing of new bureaux, possible hires, new book themes, special editions and general improvements to the business. By the time everyone got back on the plane there was a clear plan for the months and years ahead. As some of us dispersed on holiday and others went back to base, there was the sunny sense of optimism that, barring serious political and security upheaval, we’d established a workable agenda.
I went on to Milan for a few days and then up to Merano, and eventually made my way to Hamburg – en route to a family reunion in Sweden. By the time I’d settled into my room overlooking the Elbe, early snapshots of the UK’s EU referendum results were scrolling across the screen. While it all looked rather close, the remainers had a tiny lead so I set my alarm to wake me at about 05.00 to catch the final results.
When I tuned in hours later I couldn’t believe the flashing red news alert stating that the UK was to leave the EU. I sat up and stared, I increased the volume, I switched to other networks hoping Sky News had called it wrong – but the same story was playing out elsewhere. I stayed with the coverage and then, with a knot in my stomach, tried to go back to sleep, hoping it was all a bad dream.
When we put the first thoughts on paper for the launch of this magazine the notion of being part of something bigger, being able to cross borders in Europe and beyond and a general sense of mobility was at the core of our thinking. We wanted to create a magazine that reflected this shift in lifestyles, businesses and government policies. London seemed like the perfect place to make such a venture happen and from launch we had a team that reflected all that’s good about a city built on welcoming top talent from around the world.
One of the first snapshots of the launch team summed it up: we were a small group but the collection of nationalities spoke of our ambition to be a properly international title: Brits, an American, a Swede, a pair of Canadians, a Belgian, an Aussie and Japanese. About a decade on and we’re now well over 100 staff and with about 27 nationalities in the mix. On the day the UK voted to leave the EU there was a collective sense of sadness that this somehow couldn’t be, that this would have to be overturned.
As I write it’s now been six weeks and though the shock has worn off, the reality of being an international media business in a country that hasn’t figured out how it’s going to move forward is proving a challenge for many in the print and broadcasting space. Fortunately we’re an international business and we count 15 to 20 countries as our key markets: the US continues to be our biggest single country for newsstand sales and subscribers; Australia is a solid third; and Germany and Canada fight it out every month for fourth and fifth place.
As so many questions remain over the role that London will play in the world of finance and media, we’ve been thinking about how we want to position ourselves. This has involved work on existing offices and personnel changes to reflect how we want to be seen in the market. The first step has been an overhaul of our Zürich office. By the time you read this issue we will have put a dedicated team in place to man our Swiss office and you’ll start to notice more contributions from the bureau on Monocle 24. We intend to use our Swiss base to cover more of Mitteleuropa while also using Zürich as a hub to send our editors further afield. At the same time we’re looking at the possibility of a second bureau on the continent to underline our commitment to European coverage and push further east. Likewise, changes are afoot in Toronto and Singapore.
As you might have noticed from our cover, we think it’s time to take a fresh look at the countries and cities that offer the warmest welcome while delivering great business opportunities married with a superior quality of life. We firmly believe that mobility (and all it offers by way of education, experience and empathy) is essential for human development and this is a story we’re committed to telling.
We look forward to meeting you at a host of events we have lined up for the autumn, particularly around our ongoing Monocle Live broadcasts and our new book, which is devoted to the delights of drinking and dining and soon to be on the road. Cheers to a good end of summer and a perky return to work. As ever, drop all thoughts and comments to me at email@example.com. Thank you for your support.
For more from our editor in chief, read his column in the ‘FT Weekend’.