Monocle summit: print is the “spiritual home” of a brand

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Publishing

An international panel of renowned journalists (among them Olivier Royant of Paris Match or Christoph Amend of Zeit Magazin) gather at the Monocle Summit to share their thoughts on the current state of print, publishing in general and journalism. Tyler Brûlé, Monocle’s founder and editor-in-chief, and his staff host the conference on January 2, 2017 in London. 

”People have been asking ’is print dead?‘ for almost two decades now. It’s getting a bit old. … If I look at our five year business plan right now, there’s nothing which removes the printed issue of Monocle from the core, not just as the spiritual home of the brand, but I think also as the big money maker. It is still where the core profit for our business resides“, says Tyler Brûlé in an interview he gives me in the beginning of 2016.

Earlier this year, he and his staff host the Monocle Media Summit in London. Given his quote, its motto comes as no surprise:

”Enough now! Print is not dead.“

You can see the evidence at every newsstand. Not all titles might be commercially successful but just as TV never managed to kill the radio, print and online seem to be finding a way to coexist.

 

Monocle_Christoph_Amend_Tyler_Brule

Editor-in-chief of German Zeit Magazin Christoph Amend and Monocle’s Tyler Brûlé

 

More and more titles keep popping up and, in fashion, print seems to be as relevant as ever – at least that is what fashion brands’ PR agents seem to think when you observe how they still favour print over online. Freebies for influencers aside, you’ll have a harder time getting samples for an editorial shoot that is for online only, than for a classic spread in a printed publication.

Mandie Bienek of Press Factory, first and oldest fashion PR agency in Berlin, tells me in an interview earlier this year:

”From my observations, when I take a look at the under 20 years olds, there will be two relevant directions in publishing: On the one hand, print that has a certain quality, that may become a collectible, a magazine as a coffee table book, publications that stand out and are different, are brave, stand for something; on the other hand, there will be all the 24 hour real-time online channels that will feed us news in all kind of fields, obviously also fashion.“

The magazine is the hub, it is what connects all the channels. Granted, for many the question still is, how to keep up the revenue stream that everybody is used to from the old days. A lot of fashion and lifestyle books are being kept alive artificially by investors from other industries who buy themselves into the world of glamour. But then, „Culture cannot always be profitable, it always needed support“, says photographer Christop Mack.

So, according to the panel at the Monocle Summit, where is print going? Spoiler: Although it is being established that print is still alive, no concrete recipes are given on how to keep it alive financially while revenue streams are shifting to digital. However, valuable insights are discussed that will show what a good publication is made of in the 21st century.

Olivier Royant, editor-in-chief, Paris Match

  • WED – writing, editing, design: when these elements come together, print can work
  • Create an environment in which people don’t want to check their Instagram
  • People are willing to pay for quality
  • Core of the brand: truth
  • In France, special issues sell well
  • The average reader of Paris Match is 59 years old; with Snapchat „we reach the 16 to 22 year olds“

Benchmarks from the world of publishing

The Monocle editorial staff have identified a few best practice cases from the world of publishing – of which a surprising number come from Germany:

From paper suppliers Gmund Paper, to Handelsblatt’s morning briefing, to the newsstand at Leipzig’s Hauptbahnhof.

Benchmark: Corporate Identity

There was a special mention of Tagesschau, the prime time news at German public TV broadcaster ARD and one of its anchors, Susanne Daubner.

 

German news anchor: Susanne Daubner

 

Brûlé: ”We’re obsessed with this voice.“ He jokingly assumes: ”This is what smoking East German cigarettes for decades does to your voice.“

In hindsight, I’m not sure why the example was mentioned – for ARD’s Corporate Identity or Daubner’s voice.

Benchmarks: brand extensions

You gotta make your money somewhere if it’s not with print:

  • Schöner Wohnen Paint: Interior magazine that sells wall paint
  • Stern Crime: Special issue of Stern, the weekly news magazine, that revolves around real crimes; readings from the magazine have even been brought to a theatre in Hamburg

(The summit itself is best proof that brand extensions work. There are about 200 seats, most of them taken, at 125 GBP each: that makes an extra 25,000 GBP in turnover if all seats were paid for.)

Zeit Magazin

One German publication manages to get special attention by Monocle („Every week we fight over the copy“): Zeit Magazin is the supplement to the weekly newspaper Die Zeit. Christoph Amend is its editor-in-chief– of whom Brûlé thinks he might be ”one of the best editors in the world“.

 

Einmal schnell durchs neue #ZEITmagazin geblättert

A post shared by ZEITmagazin (@zeitmagazin) on

Issue of Zeit Magazin which was guest-edited by Jil Sander

 

Some of Amend’s thoughts:

  • To pin down the strategy for the magazine before the first issue, Amend forgos research (Brûlé: ”I don’t believe in research“). Instead, he invited people to the editorial offices to find out in conversations what they potentially expect from the magazine. Essence: „Tell us something we don’t know and show us pictures that we haven’t seen.“
  • Photographers and illustrators are authors – just as much as writers. They are all being included in a story from the start.
  • A supplement can be more daring with its covers as they don’t have to sell the magazine.
  • Zeit Magazin uses social media (unlike Monocle), for example: weekly Instagram takeovers by celebrated guests. However: everything has to lead back to the brand, no matter from which channel.

Power of being present

The summit concludes with Lyse Doucet, BBC’s chief international correspondent, and photojournalist Lynsey Addario who works for the New York Times, National Geographic or Time.

Doucet is regularly deployed to cover the goings-on in the world and has been reporting from Afghanistan and Pakistan since 1988. With her camera, Addario has covered „every major conflict and crisis of her generation, from Afghanistan to Somalia“ over the past 15 years. Both have risked their lives to report. Addario: „There are stories worth the risk“, from Syria, for example.

Their advice to journalists: Twitter may give you the buzz but there is no substitute for being on the ground to find the truth between „different realities“. So get up from your desk, go out, talk to people. Now.

 

BBC journalist Lyse Doucet discusses her career

 

Link to Monocle Podcast of the conference

The Author

Bjoern Luedtke is a freelance journalist, editor and writer specialising in fashion and marketing

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