Korea’s Magazine B is a unique magazine that examines a different brand each month in its bookish format. Subjects have ranged from unique one-offs like Lego, Penguin and ECM to larger concerns like Google, the Champions League and Star Wars, while inbetween sit luxury brands such as Rolex, Maison Margiella and Rimowa.
With this recent issue 60, Magazine B looks at its first first magazine brand. If ever a magazine publisher deserved this type of coverage it’s Monocle, with its charismatic founder Tyler Brulé and multi-faceted identity based around the print edition. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine another magazine that could offer so many different yet tightly-bound parts for examination.
Anyone following Brulé and his publishing career will have a rough idea what to expect here; there’s his background at Wallpaper*, his outspoken views about iPad apps and refusal to take advantage of social media, and the complex links between the editorial role of Monocle and its associated creative agency Winkreative.
All appear here among stories about how the magazine came about, how the team work, the addition of the Monocle24 radio station, the brief spurts of weekly newspapers to cover the magazine’s summer and winter breaks, and the highly focused global chain of Monocle shops selling branded and other selected high-end items.
We meet editor Andrew Tuck and creative director Richard Spencer Powell, as well as less familiar figures such as publisher Anders Braso. Some of the magazine’s international bureau editors are interviewed, as are radio producer Tom Edwards and others from the Monocle team. They present a singular face, truly the personification of the mother brand.
Along the way we see inside the Midori House HQ, pages at the printer (a nice touch), the complete front covers to date, and learn about spin offs such as the books, travel guides and the annual Quality of Life conference.
Steve Watson from Stack sings Monocle’s praises in an interview positioning the magazine as the leader of the indies, one of a number of brief excursions beyond local, Korean journalists and Monocle staff interviews. The ‘print is dead’ discussion rears it’s tired head at the start of the issue, with a predictable split between print media names and media sales reps. By contrast, a quick overview at the end of the issue offers some niche mags (MacGuffin, Delayed gratification, Little White Lies, Racquet etc) that hint at the new paradigm in print publishing.
What the magazine lacks is some contrary opinion; in an otherwise thoroughly researched publication it seems odd not to have a more open discussion of the pros and cons of the strong links between Monocle’s journalistic and commercial instincts. The magazine is notable for its prominent use of advertorials, something that is skated over several times but never quite grappled with.
But that’s a minor gripe, we’re here to celebrate Monocle in all its forms, and while Brulé will remain a mildly controversial and easily parodied character for some, ultimately he is a force for good in publishing. Like all the best editors he is the personification of his magazine, and fully deserves this issue of Magazine B dedicated to his brand.
It’s great to have this snapshot of a successful magazine publisher and its culture in print form, and more generally, this issue of Magazine B is a valuable addition to the material available about today’s magazine industry. Highly recommended.