Sunday, August 16, 2009

Magazine Person of the Year: Tyler Brûlé

I don't know how to pronounce his last name, but Monocle founder Tyler Brûlé is right on the money when it comes to building a global magazine brand. I've enjoyed his Financial Times columns for years (just one of the many pleasures of the weekend edition of the FT), and though I've never read his earlier periodical claim to fame -- Wallpaper -- I've been very impressed with his current hit, Monocle.

In the UK's Independent newspaper, Brûlé is feted with a nice article pointing out the success of Monocle in print, in podcasts, and now in retail. Laughed at by many for his ambitious plans for this hybrid global monthly (10 times annually) magazine covering business, culture, and design, Brûlé can enjoy its success. The magazine currently has a circulation of about 150,000, and subscriptions are low (12,000) but growing -- and subscribers pay more than the cover price.

But here's what I really like about the Independent article:

Then there is the magazine itself, the very core of the business and a wonder to touch as well as to behold thanks to its five different paper stocks. Worth every penny, says Brûlé. “Media owners around the world are scratching their heads, asking why magazines and newspapers aren’t selling anymore. Why? Because you’ve downgraded the experience. When you are competing against digital, which can zoom in and animate, then your print experience needs to be tactile and exciting and, for magazines, a bit collectable.”

Exactly. He understands that reading a print magazine is an experience. It can compete very well with online media products if its creators know what magazines can do best and they don't try to do what online does better. Print magazines can do long, richly illustrated articles better than the Web, and when they do a high-quality tactile presentation (as does Monocle) -- it's great.

I've said it before on this blog, but what use is the internet if not for repeating oneself: Magazines need to be upgrading their experience for the reader, not cutting paper quality, trim size, and frequency. Give people something better to pay for, and they will.

Today, I almost bought a magazine at Borders because a friend and former colleague writes for it. Standing there in the store, I paged through the magazine, looking for bylined articles by my friend. I found many, but I didn't find any article longer than a page -- and most were sidebar-length. I didn't buy it. The magazine seems to be trying to compete with the web by being short and sweet, but that's a competition it can't win. If I want 400-word synopses of someone or something, I'll get that from the web at no cost. But I look to magazines to give me 4,000 words or more on a topic, with reporters on the ground, aided by photographers and illustrators and professional editing.

Monocle knows that. So hats off to Tyler Brûlé. However the hell you pronounce his last name.
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