Monocle Magazine: A Case Study in the Fusion of Technology and Traditional Publishing

Launched in February 2007, Monocle is a magazine which is published in print 10 times a year. The magazine also has a strong online presence through its website which is constantly updated. The magazine covers a variety of subject material which are represented by the magazine’s various sections: “Affairs”, “Business”, “Culture”, “Design” and “Edit”. Monocle describes itself as “more of a book then a magazine”. In print form it is designed to be “highly portable (it’s lightweight and compact) and collectible (it’s thick and robust)”. Online, Monocle seeks to focus on “broadcasting with a wide array of films, slide shows and audio reports”.
Why is Monocle a relevant case study?
Although Monocle is a magazine, it employs many practices that exemplify a deft use of technology which is appropriately fused with traditional publishing methodologies. Monocle seeks to strike a kind of balance between its online and print versions which will appeal to readers by feeding into exactly what readers themselves want. Monocle has been identified, in particular by Mark Nagurski of Really Practical, as generating a business model that incorporates an “innovative approach to working with advertisers and sponsors” that holds great potential for the future of publishing and also content marketing.
Web + Print Symbiosis and Content Extension
Nagurski notes that Monocle’s website is not merely a “digital recreation of the print title”; rather, the Monocle website operates to complement and extend the print version of Monocle. This is perhaps what makes the Monocle website such a successful contributory force for the Monocle brand since it makes the website “a destination in itself”. The print version of Monocle is extended, complimented and supplimented by the website through its hosting of video features and podcasts which relate to and expound upon the printed content.
Content Marketing: The Synthesis of Advertising and Content
Piers Fawkes of PSFK comments that Monocle frequently creates “sponsored content” which represents the successful synthesis of advertising and content which “wins for the reader, publisher and advertiser”. A particularly good example of this is presented by Fawkes whose list of 10 examples includes a mention of Absolut who have had an eight page travel guide in the magazine which also advertises a travel pocket book which is available at international duty free stores with the purchase of Absolut vodka. It would seem that Monocle’s style of “sponsored content” is neither blatent advertising nor product placement (depending on the extent of your political cynicism, I guess). Instead, this kind of content marketing allows the magazine to accrue revenue from sponsors while providing readers with information and offers that are more likely to appeal to them.
Stepping Back From the Future
Monocle editor in chief Tyler Brule comments in an interview for The Australian (9 April 2009), that the content for Monocle was determined following his own observation of people’s buying habits at the airport. Brule notes that Monocle is the fusion of what he saw, people “buying something to give them a competitive advantage … and getting something that would give them some sort of payback in hour three or four of the flight, that offers them more enjoyment”. Contrary to many publishers at the moment who are focusing on the future, Monocle is surviving the demands of the technology-riddled contemporary publishing landscape by balancing the tension of what customers are wanting now with the possibilities of available technology.
Brule comments that, from its inception, Monocle sought to be “bookish”. Indeed, the Monocle brand was created with the intention that the magazine should have a collectible quality about it. Accordingly, the magazine’s back-order business is quite successful. While “[i]mmediacy demands that readers consume (other magazines) in one sitting” it is the view of Monocle that their magazine “should sit on your bedside table or coffee table and hopefully you can revisit it agin and again”. Accordingly, as “soon as the new issues goes on sale the previous issue doubles in price”.
Monocle is a very interesting example of a future publishing business model, particularly since it exemplifies a very astute use of technology to extend the potential and reach of its print version, while embracing the seeming paradoxical desire to hold steadfastly to the tangibility and collectability of the book (in this case, magazine) as artefact.