“We knew Australia would be a strong market and it is our third biggest…we knew it would do well here,” says Tyler Brûlé of Monocle magazine’s readership footprint Australia.
We’ve met in the foyer of the Park Hyatt Hotel in Sydney while he’s in town for two days in the midst of an Asia-Pacific tour with a team of eight staff from Monocle, including editors from their London, Hong Kong and Singapore offices and two from their sister design agency Winkreative. They’re in town for a reader event that evening at the hotel and have two days in Sydney on a whirlwind two-week trip that includes Japan, Auckland, Hong Kong, Brisbane and Singapore.
Regular travel is something that Brûle, 44 is no stranger to, like the many editors that sit below him in the Monocle pyramid, spread across bureaus the world over. “I mean, jetting around this much would be rare – maybe twice a year ,” he says. “But I could still be on the road for two weeks in North Asia, Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, doing a number of cities in a more contained geographic region. Taking on the whole Pacific in one trip is a pretty big task.”
Two weeks on the road is usually bookended by two weeks back in the London office for the Canadian-born journalist. His accent is still thick despite years spent living in the UK, working as a reporter for the BBC before crossing to print journalism to write for Vanity Fair, The Guardian and The Sunday Times. After receiving accolades for his for his groundbreaking magazine Wallpaper, which Brûlé launched in 1996, he sold his stake to develop Winkreative, the full-service branding and design agency that designed and launched Monocle in 2007, a magazine that is now distributed in over 65 countries and published 10 times a year, covering global current affairs, business, culture and design.
In the six years since the magazine’s beginnings, this is only the second time Brûlé and the Monocle team have held a reader event in Australia, despite, as he reiterates, it being the third largest market for the magazine. As a global media brand combining print, web, retail and broadcast components, Monocle has fast become a well-respected brand with a dedicated Australian audience. With combined offices and stores in cities from Toronto to Tokyo, London and Hong Kong, Sydney now rates high on Brûlé’s list to follow suit.
“The funny thing about Monocle is that the plan could happen this afternoon if I like what I see or I find a good office space,” he suggests. “That’s been one of the really exciting things about the business, is that it’s gone really well and when we see that there’s an opportunity, we just do it.” It seems a fortunate position to be in given they just recently launched a bureau and shop in Toronto and their first Lobby Shop in the Hyatt Regency in London. They also just re-launched the Monocle website last month and are about to open a cafe in London in March. This will be their second such venture, with a cafe in Tokyo already.
And it’s this sort of model they’d like to apply to the Australian market – a fully cohesive bureau, combining a shop, an office and radio broadcasting facilities (to accommodate for their 24 hour audio service, Monocle 24). “Well that’s kind of our model now,” Brûlé explains. “It’s worked so well. We tried it in Hong Kong – combining the shop, the Monocle office, the agency and putting them all under one roof – and it worked well. So we’ve replicated that in Toronto…the same thing is going to happen in Tokyo – we’re going to combine everything one space now, on street level…and we’re looking at [doing this in] New York as well.”
So for now, Sydney seems the most likely Australian base, though Brûlé seems open to suggestion. “I’m a little agnostic. I think probably from a neighbourhood point of view, there’s more that might work better [in Sydney]…but we also try to do some sort of pop-up concept first, just to test the waters…to gauge the appetite before we jump in fully.”
Whether it’s Melbourne or Sydney, Australia consistently ranks high on Monocle’s Quality of Life Survey, which they conduct annually. With Melbourne currently at number six and Sydney sitting at number eight, I’m curious as to how they assess their final rankings. “There’s a very, let’s say, scientific side to it, which is number of break-ins, number of cinemas – we really look into a metrics – number of hospital beds per hundred thousand people etcetera, so it’s a massive data collect…which gives you a very accurate ranking. And then there is a pretty big subjective side to it as well.” He refers to other factors such a Melbourne’s bicycle scheme as favourable to the city’s ranking, but the helmet issue as something that brings it down. “It’s basic things that cities do, which is not scientific, [so] you have to be really subjective in your view, I’d say it’d be about 70 per cent scientific and 30 per cent subjective,” Brûlé adds.
And with a tight schedule and only two full days crammed full of meetings and interviews in Sydney, Brûle has been and gone in a moment, but what stays in his wake is the print magazine the publisher and editor-in-chief is so staunchly committed to. “I think it’s interesting, digital versus print, but having a physical presence where the essence of the brand is in one place is important. There’s always a good discipline about print,” he offers. “It makes it more legitimate.”