Wallpaper* founder Tyler Brûlé made a suitably extravagant return to print this week with the launch of a monthly magazine for globetrotting, affluent professionals.
Monocle will run to almost 250 pages and is divided into five (A to E) sections of current affairs, business, culture, design and edits (which essentially covers shopping).
The title, supported by a website featuring video and audio broadcasts, is hoping to target an international jetset readership with original photography, extensive reportage running to multiple pages, and quirky takes on its five topics. The bookish, B5-sized title (slightly smaller than A4), is printed on a mixture of matt and gloss paper — the latter used for an extensive photographic feature.
Monocle has been two years in gestation as Brûlé gathered €7 million of launch investment. The 37-year-old Canadian's last venture into magazines was Wallpaper*, the style bible he founded in 1996.
Time Warner bought Wallpaper* in 1998, but Brûlé remained editorial director until 2002, when he left to run his design agency Wink Media (now Winkreative).
Brûlé said Monocle was intended to appeal to a global audience alienated by the increasing parochial nature of national news reporting. He said: "On one side you have a sector of our society which is more mobile than ever before — whether that's for education, to conduct relationships (either business or personal) or just for a change in lifestyle — and people are moving around the world constantly."
Monocle editor Andrew Tuck is a former Independent on Sunday executive features editor.
Referring to the lengthy pieces of international reportage in the launch issue, he said: "Coming from anywhere in British journalism, what's great is that we'll send someone [overseas] for 10 days, where the traditional thing on British newspapers is to think, can we get away with sending someone to Nairobi for two days and get some agency pictures in?"
Tuck and Brûlé insist that no copy in the launch issue was driven by PRs, press releases or news wires. Tuck said: "Every story has come from someone on the ground saying, I'll tell you what the most important story is, I'll tell you what you should be interested in".
The title has a London-based editorial team of 18, including three editorial bureaux editors in New York, Zurich and Tokyo. The "lean staff" based in its London offices, also home to Winkreative, will be supplemented by a growing network of global contributors.
Tuck said Brûlé's vision was "swimming against the tide" of cutbacks of international news organisations' staff levels. "It's not a reflection on the paper I come from, but it really feels like a statement of quality, and that's the most amazing thing — when people come in to see it, they can't quite believe the commitment to journalism."
Monocle is envisaged as a complementary read to titles such as The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and The Economist. Its creators said that Monocle would benefit from its monthly nature because, rather than competing with the news weeklies, it could look for exclusives and pick up stories that newsrooms, forced into cutbacks, did not have the time or resources to do.
"When you're a weekly you have to chase the ambulance and by virtue of being a weekly, you are almost forced into a corner to say what happened in the seven days before," said Brûlé.
"Also, recognising that there's been so many cutbacks in newsrooms — television, radio or newspapers — that there's just so many great foreign stories to do out there that nobody is doing, and that's the luxury we have of a monthly frequency."
The magazine will be supported by a subscriber-based website. which will broadcast video and audio content.
Dan Hill, former head of interactive design and technology at BBC Radio & Music Interactive, will be director of web and broadcast.
Brûlé said Monocle's ambitions were "very broadcast-based" and that he envisaged current content, such as the two-camera 25-minute video shoot with the CEO of Lego, to evolve into packages that might attract companies such as BA to buy for their in-flight service.
The site's focus, like the magazine, will not be "ambulance chasing" but Brûlé said possible strategies included putting out four news and analysis bulletins a day for the four most important time zones in the world or, at its most ambitious, Monocle's own web-based TV network.
The magazine will have no bylines but journalists' initials appear beside each story. "I think people will be surprised at how fresh it reads. It's all quite new. It's not celebrity journalism," said Tuck. "Not one journalist gets their picture on the magazine, not even Tyler."
The last word, however, goes to Brûlé, whose editor's letter is on the final page.
Through the Monocle: The Launch Issue
The launch issue opens with an 18-page report into the Japanese navy and a 10-page piece on China’s involvement in Africa. The emphasis on long pieces of reportage is part of Monocle’s attempt to “restore a bit of quality” to the newsstand.
Brûlé said: “There are many corners where there are still outstanding reporting, But there is an evaporation of international news coverage out of British newspapers and that is in conflict with a world which is simply more mobile at all ends of the spectrum.”
Shorter pieces in the current affairs section include Style Leader — a dissection of a country’s political culture as told through its national leader’s dress sense.
The business section has a Q&A with the CEO of Lego; a look at Ensenda in Mexico from an entrepreneurial perspective; while culture reviews span the arts, plus coverage of international media including a look at Afghanistan’s first FM radio station.
Design will include architecture, industrial design and two fashion shoots for men and women — followed by the “curated” shopping section. The back of the magazine will also include a commissioned Manga comic.