Saturday, February 19, 2022 – La Minute Monocle
It was Valentine’s Day 2007, on a Wednesday, when the first box of magazines arrived from the printers at Monocle’s offices in Boston Place, a road that runs alongside Marylebone station in London. In the meeting room, scissors were produced to cut the ribbon. And, finally, there it was: Monocle number 01; a Japanese Navy pilot looking over cover. Someone was on hand to document the moment, and this week Shin, our current photography editor, kindly dug up the snaps for me to review. There were fewer people present than I remembered: our editor Pam, our general manager Robyn and staff members Rob, Saul and Dan. There also seems to be a decent number of wine glasses in action and although I’m not sure who opened the cans of Kronenbourg, I have a feeling that Saul, one of our editors at the time , may be responsible. Everyone looks so happy in the photos – excited and wrinkle-free.
I’d love to say the rest is history, but it wasn’t going to be that simple. First, we had to explain the magazine’s seemingly simple concept over and over again. It’s hard to imagine now, but while people could understand that a newspaper could cover everything from breaking news to fashion, many simply didn’t believe that diversity would work in a monthly magazine – and wasted no time in telling everyone. One person wrote a review that dismissed us as a headline that was looking for people who cared “as much about Somalia as Jil Sander”. It’s such a funny line to think about now: the notion that, say, architects could never care about society, that good design could never be used to determine better outcomes in education, health or diplomacy. Another reviewer came to us a year after we launched to congratulate us for changing our design – and, in fact, nothing had changed, he had just gotten used to us.
Then there was only the complicated task of starting a magazine: building a network of correspondents, finding our voice, refining our mandate in real time. It was not without hiccups; there may have been one typo or ten. So we’ve built a strong fact-checking team and put endless processes in place to ensure accuracy. And, yes, mistakes can still happen. So we also worked on our humility.
Yet despite all of this, despite the catastrophic publishers already running around declaring print dead, 2007 turned out to be a good time to start a media company, to found a magazine. As newspapers panicked about going digital and started giving away their hard work, there was room for a start-up, not burdened by history, to go against the grain. So, just as major media companies closed their offices around the world and cut costs by buying cheaper paper stocks, Monocle did the opposite and, from issue 01, we had outposts entirely staffed in New York and Tokyo, and put reporters and photographers on planes to go tell unique stories. We even asked photographers to reshoot some stories on film.
Unexpectedly, the other thing that in many ways helped us prosper was the global financial crash of 2008. Why? This gave the magazine a renewed sense of purpose. While other news titles filled their pages with dark stories, Monocle traveled to places that were still flourishing, looked at how to start a business, focused less on flash and more on design or the fashion brands that made products with craftsmanship and sustainability at their heart. .
Cut to 2022, at Monocle’s offices in Marylebone, London. It’s a Monday morning and the first boxes of the 15th anniversary issue have just arrived. There is always the same excitement when the tape is cut and issues are passed on to the team. This week, Tyler was in town from Zürich, as were other faces present from issue 01. But as we celebrate 15 years of Monocle, it’s essential that we look to the future and continue to bring in new talent. and new perspectives in bending. And also to reinvent the way we report again and again.
Twice a year, the team meets to talk about the business, make plans and plot. We also spend a lot of time thinking about how we should tell stories, where we should have pen pals on the map and how we prepare Monocle for whatever comes our way – our 15 years have been marked by crisis global then you think about this stuff.
Ultimately, our job is to make sure you feel excited to open the envelope containing your subscriber’s copy, or open a freshly minted magazine at a newsstand, and discover places less visited. , ideas that challenge and stories that strive to be best in class. And I hope without glitch. If the reveal makes you want to pull the ring on a can of Kronenbourg, then it’s done. I can even join you.
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