Print done well is the best medium for stories that matter

Submitted by: Ulbe Jelluma 05/09/2017

Print newspapers can follow you around all day, as Tyler Brûlé puts it. Extra benefit: no Wi-Fi needed plus it can survive a little sunscreen. Hence Monocle’s ‘The Summer Weekly’ for affluent readers on holiday in Southern Europe. Is this only the beginning of their newspaper adventure?

Summer is supposed to be the ‘off season’ for news publications. The Dutch even have a word for it and call this ‘cucumber time’ (they grow when newspapers shrink). Clearly nobody told Tyler Brûlé about that: he launched a 48-page weekly newspaper for four weeks, in August. 

Monocle founder and editor-in-chief Tyler Brûlé apparently thinks of summer as a time to do some editorial muscle flexing and earn a little extra on the side. August is the time of year “when people have the luxury and time to read”, he says. The Monocle business clients apparently agree with Brûlé because the newspaper is fully financed through advertising at $20.000 per page (sector exclusivity guaranteed) and reportedly making money.

Future of digital is print
The choice to start a print newspaper may not sound like good business sense but the Monocle team have done their homework. The combination of print, news and luxury is good thinking: newspaper print audience shows resilience despite reclining circulation figures, still accounting for the majority of newspaper readers; the call for reliable news is rising and luxury brands are looking for brand safety.  

This may not be a real resurgence for print, as The Guardian's head of media Jane Martinson remarks in an interview on Today (BBC) but it is undoubtedly a sign of the renewed appreciation for printed news and magazines. Marketing speaker Andrew Davis was even so bold as to say that ‘the future of digital is print’. Since the volume of content being produced digitally is so huge, he states that the best content needs to find its way via credible sources, summarised and interpreted in a way that people can consume, “that will lead you to print almost automatically.”

Print the new luxury 
But there are other signs for the comeback of print. Like the relaunch of luxury magazine titles like ‘Die Dame’ earlier this year in Germany, ‘Paste’ in the US and luxury editions of magazine brands like Glamour this September in the Netherlands. Print seems to be a new form of luxury and Monocle magazine is one of the trend flagships. Although the print as luxury trend tends to mean lower frequency like quarterlies, the decision to produce a newspaper might be a smaller step than it seems. Because Monocle, The Summer Weekly, is a true spin off from the monthly global affairs and lifestyle magazine, being printed on high quality paper and containing three full sections of global news, comment and reportage, plus the very best in art, business and design. It will not shy away from long, even very long (2,000-3,000 words) copy. Enough to keep those affluent holiday makers occupied for their Southern European weekends. Or even the whole week.

Where many big newspapers concentrate on their websites and mobile apps, the digital presence of The Summer Weekly is limited. “We discussed it with a lot of clients [..]. They say, ‘We love the idea someone is doing something on newsprint again’”, says Brûlé. Since the Monocle philosophy states that print done well is the best medium for telling readers stories that matter and this newspaper is only the latest illustration of it. 

Monocle, The Winter Edition?
So with September approaching what will happen next? At the time of writing there are no concrete plans of repeating the project. According to their newsletter of 30th August the Monocle team is considering a follow up in some form in response to the number of positive reactions from the readers. If nothing more, The Summer Weekly has been an interesting editorial exercise in the bigger scheme of the Monocle brand.