It is by now very obvious that in order to survive magazines have to mutate into something other than what they are currently. What does one do now that the old publishing model where the bulk of your revenue comes from advertising (with maybe a 25% revenue flow from news-stand sales and subscriptions)is over? What happens when there are no advertisers to drive your editorial policy? Even worse how do you keep an audience that can smell the rank insincerity of an "ad-buy-cover placement" 20 yards away ? How do you speak to an audience that has- via the internet- grown accustomed to a newer, more aggressive tone in journalism? And how do you converse with a consumer who has learned to talk back to the gatekeepers of taste and influence. Call it snarky...bitchy...post Perez Hilton, it is also honest and the way that people really think and talk about fashion and celebrities and movies and music. Consequently , when you happen to read another "cover story" on a super--brushed, neutered, freeze-dried and tin-canned interview with another celebrity-who-just-happens-to-have-a-movie-out you realize what a great disservice the PR flacks of Hollywood (and beyond) have done to their talent. Because I love magazines dearly, I don't want to see them die. I am just praying that they adapt. In time. Yesterday, while stocking up for my airport reading I randomly picked up the latest issue of Tyler Brule's "Monocle" . I loved what I saw, which is namely, the glimmering of a new business model. I've being analyzing and parsing the structure of both the print edition and the website of Monocle for a good obsessive 24 hrs now to hone in and what it is I love so much about the venture. Bullet-point fashion, it is this:
1. Monocle is super-niche but in dialogue with a really sophisticated, truly coveted customer. There is a dedicated global-cosmopolitanism to the coverage and the ideal has a wonderful over-lap where that dream constituency can toil in the arts, the world of finance, fashion, music, advertising, journalism or any combination thereof.
2.The tone of the text is exactly like a Pet Shop Boys album converted to real life. Listen to "Bilingual" while reading the latest copy of Monocle if you think I'm hyping.
3. More relevantly to this post, Monocle is forging a very interesting new business model where the magazine stands as a 'pure brand'... completely uncompromised, completely clean, beautifully rendered to have a very personal identity. The clarity of that base gives you a wonderful point of departure for a retail operation-such as the ones pursued by Monocle. They have stand alone stores in London, Palma de Mallorca in Spain, and Santa Monica,California. The cross-branded associations are impeccable. If Alain de Botain can kick-off an in-house book series and Comme des Garcons can deign to do a fragrance collaboration with Monocle while Hermes can custom-design a leather cover case, then TI is a convert!
And so what did I learn from furiously studying every last page of Monocle? Keep your brand clean. Don't lie about the quality of a product to keep an ad buy going. Pursue a taste-point that is truly honest and truly your own. And then discretely sell that brand name in collaboration with other really good brands. Googling for travel bargains to Santa Monica right this minute.