03 . 04 . 23

The delivery issue is the biggest problem that print has

Words by: Print Power
Editorial Director of Monocle Tyler Brûlé says: ‘The delivery issue is the biggest problem that print has. We can get a Poke bowl delivered to us within a matter of minutes. But the complexity of getting a Sunday newspaper in Germany delivered and the cost that comes with it is astounding...

The power of print at a glance…

  • Most reader complaints centre around problems with distribution. To combat this, we need to have conversations with retailers, the postal service and logistics companies.
  • Availability of magazines in retail outlets and kiosks is at crisis point – driven by decision makers who believe customers are more digital-focused
  • Paper has become more of a luxury item for premium brands. And there’s a drive towards more innovate formats that have stand-out.

Post haste

When a piece of print lands in someone’s hand it can be an absolutely magical, transformative moment to get a message, or to get imagery across. Print isn’t the issue. There are great printers, there’s great paper, there are scores of exceptional publishers who do outstanding work. It’s the journey from printing press to coffee table, to letter box, to desk - the delivery issue is the part that is broken. Why is it that you can get heavy, cumbersome, fragile, perishable goods delivered no problem. But somehow there’s a block around newspapers and so many other elements of print? If we have any complaints from our readers, from our distributors, from our advertisers - it’s always about distribution. So I think the big challenge going forward is that we need to have conversations with the retailers, the logistics companies, the postal companies - everybody has to be involved and committed. 

Print's presence

It’s not just delivery that’s a challenge. When it comes to the availability of magazines in retail outlets and kiosks, I would say the situation is probably at crisis point. There’s ever more space for M&Ms and KitKats and branded water and ever less space for magazines and books. This is because a lot of decisions are being made by people reading industry reports that say the world is only going to be digital. Getting rid of print makes a kiosk a less interesting place to go. It becomes a world of junk food and items that I’m not convinced everyone wants to purchase.

"It's the journey from printing press to coffee table, to letter box, to desk - the delivery issue is the part that's broken"
Tyler Brûlé
Editorial Director/Monocle

Read all about it!

I think it’s essential we have a resilient, buzzy, engaged and entertaining newsstand. Because if I think about the big brands that we work with, and about the most important cities for us, there is something to be said for being top of mind and being present. If I’m a media planner for a major luxury goods group based in Geneva and I don’t see my core titles displayed at Geneva airport and train station, then I have to wonder if they’re reaching the readers in other corners of the world when they’re not present in the main city where I’m functioning. 

Show & tell

Of course, when a publisher has diminishing margins, it becomes very difficult to be present in as many places as possible. I believe that the retailer and the publisher need to be in lockstep and are able to think things though. Like, what does that wall look like, what do those risers for display look like, and how are they merchandising? We brought out the Monocle Companion last year which is pocketbook size. It’s a very thick, meaty volume of essays, but it hasn’t been designed to be displayed in a traditional, vertical wall system. You can imagine the complexity of having conversations with the distributor, the wholesale partners and the retailers about a special approach to display. Nevertheless, the product has been hugely successful, both I would say because we’ve been able to sell it through our own channels, on ecommerce or through our own stores. 

At a premium

Some of the momentum that we have in 2023, which is probably informed by last year. is a desire for ever more formats. And this is where I think there is a positivity around doing things in print. It’s certainly nothing new, but I would say that in the last five or six years and probably because of paper prices and distribution costs, paper has become more of a luxury item. 

When brands want to do something which is premium, many are choosing print. I just came back from meetings with a big luxury group and a global US bank in New York. What was interesting was that neither of them considered digital at all. Even though in many ways they’re digital-first brands, they do things in print. I would say they probably spend more in the digital space than they do on paper, but they were mostly interested in a format that was even beyond Monocle’s traditional trim size and Monocle’s traditional paper choice. They wanted to know what else we could do for them. 

That’s because, with print, you’re able to get a certain level of cut through and you’re able to be in a world of something which is collectible and tangible. 


Creative license

It’s this creativity that I think resonates with advertisers. With digital format - just by the virtue of where you consume them on a laptop or on a mobile device - you’re quite constrained in terms of the actual format. You are boxed in by a frame, whereas we know that it’s quite endless in terms of what you can create on a page in a magazine or in newspaper format. When it comes to the relationships we have with companies and brands, I would say that in 2022, it was this innovation in print that really helped to drive our profitability. It’s print’s creativity that allowed us to deliver new formats that were able to push the margin for us. We can already see that in 2023, this is exactly what brands are looking for.

Print's potential 

Of course, media brands understand this and that’s why you do see an investment in print. For Monocle, 2022 was the most successful year for us in print ever. The money we made on paper far outstripped podcasts and other things we’ve done digitally. It’s very much our forecast that it should do the same this year and we can only achieve that by going back to what I was saying earlier. That we need an able print supply, we need realistic print prices and we need to be able to successfully and efficiently deliver our product to the customer.


To know what the other 7 experts have to say about print's future, simply download the booklet Print Media Predictions 2023.

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