The Reading Room


Monocle has ruled the roost in terms of launches since it published its first issue on 15 Feb 2007. I think a lot of people, including Tyler Brule, were waiting for Tyler Brule to top Wallpaper magazine. Among his many misfires was Spruce Magazine – a terrible Wallpaper fashion spin off. But it is now generally agreed that Monocle is his finest creation.

Described by CBC News reporter Harry Forestell as a “meeting between Foreign Policy and Vanity Fair”, the magazine provides a globalist perspective on international affairs, culture and design to wealthy, cosmopolitan readers. Its first edition featured articles on subjects from the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force, Chinese investment in Africa to the best Portuguese-language Sunday newspapers. One of the main reasons I love Monocle it that it is humourless and poe-faced. In fact its humourlessness is almost funny.

But the reason why Monocle is a must read is that it continues to redefine what it means to be a magazine. They have a series of podcasts ranging from politics to country music and there is something new to download every single day (which even the BBC struggles to do). They then opened up a store in London that sells everything from body soap to office chairs. These aren’t just ready-made products that Monocle gives a stamp of approval. Instead they actually commission brand new Monocle branded products that are thought out very carefully by their Creative Director Richard Spencer Powell. Their London store was quickly followed up with bigger and better stores in LA, Hong Kong and Tokyo. It’s clear that Monocle has a cult following within the global business community that has something of a secret society about it. The critics predicted that the magazine’s text-heaviness would be a major mistake. On the contrary, it has shown that magazines don’t have to be all colours and edges. It’s refreshing to see readers flocking to pick up the latest edition because they know it will be so jam-packed full of new information.

Finally, Monocle has proved that, even in a world of free online content, customers are still willing to pay premium price for something elite and original. In the United States, single issues sell for $10 each and the subscription price is $150 annually (10 issues). The publisher claims the unusual 50 percent markup for subscription covers mail delivery and enhanced web content. In New Zealand, single issues sell for $18 each, in Japan for ¥2,310 and in the United Kingdom for £5.

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