'Monocle' has an eagle eye on the lives of the jet set

It's an extraordinary title covering the rich and fashionable from an international network of bureaux. Susie Rushton finds out how the publication survived its first year

A year ago the Canadian style commentator and Wallpaper founder Tyler Brûlé launched a new magazine. As stocky as a car-repair manual, the ten-times-a-year publication was aimed at polyglot businessmen who cared about pan-global trends in aviation and knew the difference between a Salvatore Ferragamo and a Santiago Calatrava. Priced at £5, it was to be not niche but general in scope and would also uphold high journalistic principles: no freebies or press trips for writers, and all the photography produced in-house.

Even as others cut back on foreign correspondents, Brûlé set up a network of "bureaux" in Japan, Spain, America, Australia and Switzerland. Following its launch – a fancy party at Claridge's Hotel – a complementary website with video (made by a dedicated staff film director) went live. Then media commentators sat back, put their cheap shoes up on the desk and waited for Monocle to sink under its own aspirations.

Well, a year later, Brûlé's dream is still alive. According to him, the magazine and has maintained its projected circulation of 150,000 – including 6,000 subscribers who pay a whopping £75 annual subs. Readership is strongest in the US, UK, Switzerland and Germany. It hasn't yet broken even, but aims to make profit in the next three years. These aren't soaraway stats, but for a generalist glossy produced on an anachronistically "generous" editorial budget, survival equals success.

When I meet Brûlé and Andrew Tuck, the editor, at the Monocle offices in Marylebone, the pair are quietly jubilant that their project has reached its first birthday.

"There were people who didn't quite get it, or thought we wouldn't have longevity," admits Tuck, after leading me through the (weirdly) low-lit office. Scented candles flicker on ludicrously tidy desks. Of the 30 staff, only one is an intern – who gets paid. How on earth does this add up?

"I think it was because of our ambition that we succeeded," continues Tuck, "It was the investment in print, the putting-money-where-our-mouth-is that attracted people to us."

The magazine itself hasn't changed much since its launch. Its strapline promises "a briefing on global affairs, business, culture and design" and if the term "briefing" suggests something rather worthy, it's true there aren't laughs on every page. Both Brûlé and Tuck describe Monocle not as a style glossy but as a news magazine, a genre established in Germany and the US but less so in the UK. At the front of the book there's Economist-style geopolitical stories (plus sexy pictures), followed by business reports on start-ups and developments in tech, longer reports from the bureaux, then fashion shoots, architecture, shopping and, finally, a serialised manga comic. Most of the paper stock is matt, with only a short section at the back glossy.

Although Tuck and Brûlé, below, disagree with my suggestion that Monocle is essentially a travel magazine, its main preoccupations are transport, shopping and the accoutrements of a jet-set lifestyle (which, a cynic might say, is unsurprising since Brulee's ad agency, which shares the same offices, counts BA and Swiss Air among its clients). The latest issue carries Brulee's own analysis of Heathrow's Terminal 5 while the February issue showed the Japanese bullet train on its cover and inside, the new must-have 10-seater cargo plane, the Kodiak.

The story of which Tuck says he has been most proud was a report by Africa-based journalist Steve Bloomfield (frequently of this parish) who travelled into Zimbabwe to witness at first hand the humanitarian and economic crisis in a country where foreign reporters are banned.

It's a solid read, of the type more usually found on newsprint than in men's magazines, extended with photography of everyday life in Zimbabwe and boxed cribs on the secret police. The current issue, meanwhile, devotes numerous pages to such earnest foreign subjects as the 10,000 Africans that have migrated to China and the over-staffing of the Finnish-Russian border. "We're sending reporters to places where [other papers] don't have anyone," says Tuck, who adds that syndication income has reflected that.

Back in more conventional glossy territory, last June's "Quality of Life Index" was a PR success – particularly for the city of Munich, which topped Monocle's list of the most "liveable" cities in the world. "We did proper research. If we're talking about setting news agendas, that story has rumbled on all year," says Tuck.

Brûlé is only at the office for one week per month since, aside from his duties as editor-in-chief, he is also a columnist for the International Herald Tribune and has just signed up with Vanity Fair. "Graydon Carter says that a Vanity Fair reader is a Monocle reader," he tells me.

Huge readership numbers simply don't matter. Graydon likes his magazine, and so do the backers. "It is ambitious to be a print brand, but when I went to speak to the investors I can't say it was difficult to get the money because it was obvious to people what we're trying to do," says Brûlé.

The magazine is funded by a consortium of investors including a Spanish banking family and Japanese, Australian, Swedish and Swiss backers. With these finances, the magazine is now expanding, this month, hiring its first foreign editor. "Everyone is on board to make money in the next three years," Brûlé goes on, "but they're not on board because they think this is the new Facebook and that they're going to be deliriously rich overnight."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Brand Marketing Manager - Essex - £45,000 + £5000 car allowance

£40000 - £45000 per annum + car allowance: Ashdown Group: Senior Brand Manager...

Guru Careers: .NET Developer /.NET Software Developer

£26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer /.NET Software ...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

Guru Careers: Technical Operations Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Technical Ope...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?