Tuesday, February 20, 2007

monocle: a "new, global, euro-based media brand"

Eamonn Fitzgerald writes, "If you read The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and The Economist, you're in the Monocle zone."

How's this for a whopper of a vision statement: founder, notorious wunderkind and cooked custard fan Tyler Brûlé says that the freshly-launched Monocle "mook" (magazine/book) will "focus on informing and entertaining an international audience of disillusioned readers, listeners and viewers," with the intention "to create a community of the most interested and interesting people in the world." Shazam!

As a Big Fan of the FT weekend magazine, it's going to take some work for Tyler's new oeuvre du moment to win me over - especially at 75 quid a year. Let's look at how he describes the five main sections of Monocle: Affairs, Business, Culture, Design & Edits (can you spot the Hidden Pattern?)

(section texts quoted from here)
Affairs - A global mix of reportage, essays and interviews with the forces shaping geopolitics.

Section A's lead stories are big, visual and smart. Told by the best writers and captured by fresh photographic talent, the Affairs section of the magazine will set an agenda in newsrooms around the world. Alongside big features there will also be smaller dispatches filed from our network of bureaux and stringers.

OK, I'm on board so far. I like that he's using "bureaux". It's reverse Franglais.

Business - Devoted to identifying opportunities and inspiring the reader.

While keeping an eye on the big stories, Monocle is more concerned with reporting on Slovenia's emerging wine business, on the runaway success of a certain South American airline and the rise of Valencia as a new creative hub. Where other titles seem solely interested in its billionaires and share prices, Monocle's business coverage will champion the small and interesting as much as the massive and muscular.

I wonder just how he was able to divine the subtle differences in appeal between Slovenian wines and Valencian creative urges. Unless he's got a problem with Valencia, or South American planes. To be fair, who doesn't, especially those nasty massive, muscular South African planes landing in Valencia. None of which serve Slovenian wines. . .wines which are fairly shuddering with vibrant, Slovenly flavors. Or was that flavours.

Culture - With a tight group of opinionated columnists, reviewers and interviewers, it delivers the best in film, television, music, media and art.

The culture component of the magazine is dedicated to delivering all that's new from all corners of the world. This section's edit team will be committed to ensuring that reader's dinner guests will always ask 'where did that track come from?' moreover, it will be about culture in the truest sense and not be a forum for covering played-out celebrities.

Judging the razor-thin moment between when a celebrity is "on the rise" and when the same celebrity becomes "played out" might be a tad difficult given the publication schedule of Monocle. The tight group of Monocle's culture opinioneers will have to deal with the rude fact that most of the celebrities of interest will very likely ascend and descend before the next issues goes to bed. Sic temper clarus.

Design - Bypassing hype, design is dedicated to unearting emerging and established talent.

Driven by a group of international contributors, Monocle's mandate is to cover fashion, industrial design and architecture from around the world and cover territory that other titles miss. For people in the industry, it will bring their world to life. For people who are interested in everything from automative design to retail architecture it will keep them ahead of the curve, their wardrobes well stocked and their buiders busy.

This is the point where the train starts to come off the tracks, spilling the unwashed, unhip masses onto the rails. The claim that Monocle's design content "will bring my world to life" and "keep me ahead of the curve" without simultaneously promising that same content will also "grow hair" and "bring my dog back to life" strains credulity.

But wait, there's more. . .

Edits - Bite-sized and thought provoking, Edits are vital life improvements curated in a fast-paced well-researched collection.

A concise, opinionated narrative that covers all the essentials of daily life, the wine to buy, the best Korean massages, the emerging neighbourhoods to invest in and the books to take on holiday. In short it's all about the buy and sell.

This is the Monocle reader - someone who is going on vacation, considering a second home, debating the relative merits of different Korean massage providers (with or without kimchee), while at the same time searching for a way to stay "ahead of the curve" by boning up on Slovenian wines, pre-descent celebrities and newly-minted music.

Were it not for the promise of the very first section - Affairs - I'd pass. Now the challenge is to find a copy. . .

(All that said, the website does look quite good.)

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