Monocle is a global briefing covering international affairs, business, culture, fashion and design. Monocle is has a multi-media approach, it is at the same time a lifestyle magazine, a 24-hour radio station, a website, a shop, a café and a strong media brand, all produced by Winkontent Ltd. It was founded in 2007 by Tyler Brûlé, a Canadian entrepreneur, previously Financial Times columnist and founder of the magazine Wallpaper. The CBC News reporter Harry Forestell describes it as a “meeting between Foreign Policy and Vanity Fair”, but it reminds me also the look of Wired, even if the overabundance of news is balanced by a more orderly layout and a rigorous style. Subscriptions cost £90 annually (10 issues, plus two seasonal newspapers), while single issues sell for $ 6 each (UK), 14 $ in the USA or 11 € in Italy, but you may find it at Mardi Gras, Bolzano for 10 😉 In 2011, Monocle was awarded one of the top ten titles of the year by AdAge USA’s ‘A List’ and Brûlé was named Editor of the Year.
The concept of Monocle is very well developed and gives the company a clear positioning in the world media market. Brûlé believed there was a place in the market for a magazine with no regional editions, all in English, that addressed a mobile global audience interested in discovering best practice and people benchmarking success in everything from city governance to simple architecture. The other initiatives (the radio, the shop, etc.) are also functional in this and define a sort of spread microcosm in which many may recognize, however considering to represent an elite. The magazine believes in print media and has neither a Facebook nor a Twitter account. Ultimately Monocle builds and/or represents a way of life, following which the ‘fans’ (that maybe buy the magazine first of all to own it, then to read it …) read Monocle, dress Monocle, listen to Monocle, sip Monocle … in one word live Monocle, so that the company has published also The Monocle Guide to Better Living …
In the July/August issue this month, Monocle has discovered … South Tyrol (not for the first time, it had already depicted Bolzano as one of the ‘coolest’ Italian small cities, some years ago) with a special report (regional travel guide) entitled ‘Südtirol: Italy’s power province’. Wow, great title … Furthermore, Monocle’s correspondents came to Bolzano to interview some ‘special’ Tyroleans. In what sense special? We asked one of them, Gabriele Paglialonga, strategy and innovation expert, born in Bolzano, but with some important experiences abroad (here is the interview – ‘The Briefing‘ broadcasting – on Monocle Radio, recorded at Palais Campofranco, nearby Walther’s Square in Bolzano).
Q – Gabriele, first of all, why the guys from Monocle have decided to come to Bolzano and what’s the main content of your interview?
Gabriele: I think the main reason for Monocle to be in South Tyrol is a long-term cooperation between the magazine and the region [see also SMG‘s web site]. There is the need and want from the region to have a presence in more international contexts so to appeal to global audiences, and Monocle definitely is a great partner in this sense. That being said, I found a genuine interest in the Monocle crew about South Tyrol and its peculiarities, such as being a bilingual region but also a beautiful setting.
Q – The South Tyrolean model described by Monocle is almost bucolic and fairy-like. “From award-winning vineyards to the finest hotels, restaurants and mountain retreats, we’ve surveyed the best this alpine Italian province has to offer” says the magazine. Is it really everything so perfect or are there opportunities, especially from an entrepreneurial point of view, that Bolzano and South Tyrol are struggling to seize on?
Gabriele: The common feeling among all participants of the show, including Monocle, was that there is plenty of space for talent, creativity, and so on. We all agreed that we are good enough for all that concerns tourism, but we do need to move beyond that. Clearly, if you want to attract innovators, you need to position the region differently than just a spa/wellness area or a place to enjoy life after retirement.
Q – We generally assume that the joint position of South Tyrol between the Italian culture and the German world represents a huge potential for local companies, meaning that they have the opportunity to compete in a larger market. Is this advantage (if it is) really relevant?
Gabriele: This is a cliché rather than a real advantage. It is definitely true that the area might be more attractive for German-speaking companies that want to locate in Italy, as well as for local companies that can overcome the language barrier right away. However, the “world is flat” and speaks English…or Chinese…and technology enables companies to work on a global scale while sitting in a single location. Just being located across countries is not a value in itself. It would become one if we had – just saying – a common tax area or a mutual recognition of the education systems.
Q – How do you see the working future for our local youth (e.g. young people leaving university)? Is it still necessary to leave our country? But above all, is there the possibility to come back and put into action what one has learned, making a real difference and driving our land to become a top-level innovation ecosystem, like other areas in Europe?
Gabriele: Living abroad is a must for all young generations. It is a rich experience that goes beyond studying or working and it is absolutely necessary to have an impact in today’s globalized world. What happens in Haiti rather than Syria has an effect on our lives, same as what happened during the financial crisis had an impact on the whole world. That being said, I think it takes decades for our region to have a role in the international innovation eco-system, because that requires intangible assets that need to be built. For example, we know that one driver of innovation is how fast the adoption of novelties happen. For that, we need lots of “early birds” that have the attitude to experiment. If we look at our demographics, we easily understand why innovation happens faster in California or in Berlin that in South Tyrol. However, it does not mean we should not try, because each of us has the potential to be part of a change and have a positive impact on our community.