As much as magazine people like to enthuse about the enduring value of tangible media in the age of digital ephemera, when the going gets tough, their printed product often takes a hit. Budget's tight? The trim size gets cut and/or the paper quality gets downgraded; the magazine ends up feeling ... diminished.
The budget's always been tight at global-affairs monthly Monocle -- launched in 2007, it's still in startup mode -- but for founder and Editor in Chief Tyler Brule, the primacy of the physical product is inviolable. With its glossy heft, sections on all manner of different paper stock, and exquisite printing, Monocle is a media product for the luxury market -- the global jetset -- that actually feels luxurious.
"When the little van comes with the first-bound editions," says Mr. Brule, speaking from Monocle headquarters in London, "it's like Christmas. That fresh smell of the glue, the feel of the paper under your fingertips, the click of the pages and the crackling of the spine -- it is touching every single sense."
For those who have followed Mr. Brule's career -- he launched the game-changing London-based design/lifestyle magazine Wallpaper in 1996 -- it comes as no surprise that he remains perhaps the most devoted and adventurous advocate of "magazine-ness" working today. He moved in 1989 from his native Canada to the U.K., where he worked for the BBC and as a war correspondent for the German magazine Focus. Ambushed by a sniper in Afghanistan, he was shot twice and suffered major nerve damage in his left arm; while recuperating he got serious about launching his own magazine.
In Monocle, Mr. Brule has united his lifelong aesthetic and journalistic passions, which results in a title that can read like The Economist meets Metropolis meets Foreign Policy meets ... Wallpaper.
And there's another side to Mr. Brule: the hard-nosed businessman. In addition to helming Monocle, he remains chairman and creative director of Winkreative, the design agency he launched while still running Wallpaper. Winkreative counts Adidas, American Express, Bally and British Airways as clients. "I probably have two different personalities for both roles," he says, "and I switch into them accordingly."
Winkreative is a wholly owned subsidiary of Swiss holding company Winkorp, which Mr. Brule founded in 2002. Monocle is 70% owned by Winkorp; the remaining 30% is held by five wealthy European families, who so far have been more than happy to indulge Mr. Brule's quest to turn Monocle into a multiplatform global brand -- complete with a (profitable) retail division. Compact Monocle shops, selling everything from Monocle back issues to luxury travel gear, can be found in London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Osaka, New York and Beijing.
And on Oct. 17 the long-awaited Monocle 24, a 24-hour web-based radio network that 's an outgrowth of the 3-year-old Monocle Weekly podcast, will launch.
It's when Mr. Brule talks about his new broadcast operations that it becomes clear that he is an equal-opportunity media aesthete. "No one builds radio studios like this anymore," he says. "Everything is just plastic and glass, but ours are lined in proper audio fabric from Denmark. Monocle 24 will sound like radio probably used to sound -- it won't be tinny, it's going to be very bassy. I think we've built the two most handsome wool-lined studios in the world."
If there's anyone who would know, it's Tyler Brule.