All eyes and ears were tuned in to Monocle’s founder and editor-in-chief, Tyler Brûlé, at B&T’s DAZE of Disruption conference yesterday in Sydney, and boy did he not disappoint.
Since launching in 2007, Monocle has chartered a unique course in both magazine publishing and broader brand development.
Having steered away from digital trends, the publication has built a loyal global audience through establishing a network of news bureaus (with journalists based in proper offices), shops, and hosting over 60 events annually.
After sharing this story in a bit more details, Brûlé went on to tell his audience the 10 things he’s learned over the last decade.
His first piece of advice for businesses was to choose investors wisely. He also believes they should be wary of new technology that they think might save them money and make their brand more famous.
“[Monocle is] not big on social media, and I think we’re also very sceptical of jumping on something new which everyone believes is going to be the next hot thing,” he said. “I think we would have been bankrupt a long time ago had that happened.”
“I’ve told my colleagues that Facebook and Twitter are our competitors – they’re not our friends – because we’re fighting for revenue just like as they are. If we’re there feeding those beasts, because they’re not generating original content per say, then we’re doing ourselves damage.
“One would say [social media is] great for awareness, but we’re pretty far down the track and we’ve seen a motorway littered with carcasses of brands which didn’t think through their digital strategy [and] didn’t think who they wanted to be friends with, and a lot of those titles aren’t there anymore. We’ve erected a couple of walls and I think we’re very happy that we’ve done so.”
Brûlé’s third tip: nothing beats getting in front of consumers.
“We do about 60 events a year, and you see in real-time people spending money with you – they can sign up for subscriptions, which is about 200 Aussie [dollars] a pop when that happens, and that’s real engagement as well,” he said.
“There’s lots of digital channels out there which are all free, [where as] it’s very different to engage with us because you have to pay, so I think that’s why we have advertisers like UBS spending north of $1 million with us annually on the big projects that we’re delivering for them.”
Monocle’s top dog also believes that it pays to be a little bit conservative.
“We like to sit back and leave big innovation to the likes of The New York Times and the BBC,” Brûlé said.
“I don’t think you necessarily always have to be a pioneer, and ultimately I always say that ‘every success is going to be ours, but every failure as well’.
“We have to look at a payroll of over 100 journalists every month, so we have to be sure that it’s going to work and it’s going to make money.”
Brûlé highlighted the need to promote from within where possible.
“I always say to my senior editors that it’s happier to hire a sunny, cheery, number two than a really smart, talented arsehole’,” he said.
“Also, I think new hires that have an entitled streak cannot be reformed. So, if you get some sort of sense after the first two weeks that they should be in the CEO’s post, it’s probably time to cut them loose – sooner rather than later.”
According to Brûlé, audio was Monocle‘s best move in the digital space.
“I think we were a bit ahead of the podcast curve, and very happy that we made our investment in that area, and we’ll continue to grow that,” he said.
Brûlé also places an importance on keeping customer service close to top management.
“All of that sits outside of my office [and] that of the publisher, and we could have outsourced it, but again, in terms of real-time feedback, actually hearing those sort of phone calls, it’s wonderful that it’s there,” he said.
“I also believe that you need to maintain a healthy quota of Aussies and Kiwis. I’m always looking at the Kiwi-Aussie index and if it’s dipping or not but when I talk about sunniness and a ‘can do’ attitude, it’s really important. We try not to hire British people.”