Can a magazine succeed without public relations?

I was interested to read a couple of weeks ago that  was launching a new magazine (with supporting multi-media website) targetting “the most interested, interesting people“.  What really caught my eye was that the new monthly magazine aims:

to satisfy a demand for serious news stripped of PR-generated content.

This is to be a text-heavy, serious publication (over 50,000 words and features such as an 18-page report into the Japanese navy and a 10-page piece on China’s involvement in Africa) to attract:

“members of a jet-setting global elite who want to read about business, culture and current affairs but are also fascinated by design, fashion and all things visual.”

Serious investment money (€7 million) is backing the magazine, drawn by Brûlé’s track record in launching  (since sold to Time Warner) as “the most authoritative and influential design magazine in the world” in 1996.

Monocle aims to be a public relations free zone – with images and stories originated by the editorial team and all expenses (inc travel) funded by the magazine. 

‘There is not one story generated by a press release,’ Brule says. Nor are there ‘freebies’ or cosy trips laid on by friendly PR agencies trying to procure favourable coverage for clients.

HOWEVER the reason why the magazine sells for £5 and requires a circulation of 60,000 to be profitable is that 65% of income is planned to come from advertising generated from luxury goods advertisers, all paying full rate (ie no discounts), despite there being no research to prove the viability of the publication.

Brûlé’s PR-cynicism questions the credibility of his previous magazine where presumably contents were inspired more by what was being plugged than any editorial integrity.  Is this unusual? 

I applaud Brûlé’s commitment to journalism and agree there should be independent judgement when selecting what to write about – but does that mean PR practitioners must be avoided?  Are journalists that easily tainted by the experience?  Have they rolled over in letting PR call the shots in the glossy mags – and if so, why?

 met the confident Brûlé in the 1990s and, although applauding him for launching a magazine, says of the first edition: “It felt like a catalogue“.

Which makes me wonder if that is the inevitable result of snuggling up to advertisers rather than working ethically with professional public relations practitioners?

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

3 thoughts on “Can a magazine succeed without public relations?”

  1. I wonder how he will keep track of his freelancers contacts….
    Of course maybe he wont have any of those either.

  2. It is a bizarre statement about not working with PRs – will they never seek to check facts or research a story? It will be interesting to see how it pans out. I do support the ethical stance of not taking freebies – which is common for publications in the US anyway.

  3. Defining the editorial content upon ‘own’ decisions, sounds great and I am sure the audience will appreciate it-thus there is a good chance to meet their estimated 60.000 circulation, but over the time, I doubt that the magazine will be viable without PR. well, I ll try to keep up with it, and wish good luck to them.

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