Monocle — a year on

Update: Monocle ten years on in 2017

A year and a day ago I wrote a review of the first issue of Monocle. This afternoon, I picked up a copy of the March 2008 issue, and thought I’d reflect on its first year.

Monocle a year on

The print edition

What’s changed? In print, not a great deal — Brûlé’s editorial in the March 2008 issue offers succinct words on the success both of book and its cover:

When Monocle hit the streets a year ago there were two common themes in the correspondence we received from readers — words of encouragement thanking us for developing something global, optimistic and celebrity-free and flattering little notes exclaiming a fondness for the paper and format.

Monocle has certainly achieved its editorial mission — my only criticism of the content itself is that, on occasion, articles fall slightly short of the degree of substantiveness which might be expected. An otherwise excellent piece on privatisation and outsourcing in Issue 9 failed to address the governance issues around the divestment of public services to the private sector, for example, but that’s a case very much outside of the norm. Personal favourites, on the other hand, include the ‘last meal’ interviews (what better way to introduce someone than through the medium of food?) and the coverage of Africa.

The quality of the finished product remains immaculate — the design and build of the magazine itself I certainly can’t criticise. Personal taste objects to the quotation marks used in block quotations throughout the printed copy, but I can’t say they detract too much from the overall impact of the design.

Monocle online

In my previous review of the magazine, I highlighted the online content as a distinctive weak point:

Monocle’s website is, unfortunately, a bit of a disappointment. In an odd echo of the magazine’s brazen dotcom-era confidence, the website is decidedly 1999.

Thankfully, I’m able to rescind what I said back in 2007 — the Monocle website is now worthy of some serious praise. Design-wise it’s a clever translation of the printed magazine’s elegance (no doubt the two were designed in tandem, but the website retains something of a tangible print feel) and content wise I’m happy to say that it’s doing a very good job.

On the design front, individual article links and RSS feeds have (thankfully) made their way into the mix, but the real value comes from the excellent programmes (Monocle’s term for its video podcasts). They’ve become a staple of my iPod selection, though individual podcast feeds for the various categories (Q&A interviews; reportage, etc) would make optimising use of commuting time even easier.

Year one; year two

Circulation figures for Monocle aren’t publicly available, and it’d be interesting to see how it’s faring from a commercial perspective. In terms of content and design, however, I very much hope it continues as it’s started.

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