Had a good talk with The Great Russell Davies on Saturday. At one point he cheekily asked, "So is that it for cityofsound then?" (Given Monocle work blitzing my already fairly patchy frequency of posting). A few recent posts hopefully suggest otherwise - and of course I will keep this thing going, by hook or by crook - but I've been working hard in the last week and a half. Haven't looked at the internet at all, except the bit we were building. Apologies to you loyal readers as a result, but here's what I did.
Week one, and one week to get something new online at Monocle.com. A couple of hooks were planted in the magazine - in the Lego CEO interview and the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force stories - so as it hit newsstands worldwide, there had to be something there. We also wanted to give a sense of direction to the online offering. And by the skin of our teeth, we did it. This first version of Monocle.com - a version 0.1, really - is a taster for what's to follow. It doesn't have any depth to the design and architecture, but does give some broad brushstroke indications of our approach.
There's no magazine content up there to begin with. That's due to our feeling that Monocle.com needs to have its own character, its own direction. We'll be pushing audio and video, then photography and text, in that order. The magazine content will follow, to provide an immensely rich, cross-referenced supporting archive, but we're keen to ensure that each medium plays to their own strengths. So the video content has been beautifully shot, is well edited and well produced, with the beginnings of title sequences - courtesy of filmmaker Adam Mufti, shooting the magazine covers through the printing press. We're essentially setting up a broadcast network, without all the vestiges of a broadcast network.
Our initial concentration has been as much on individual elements of new audio and video formats - running orders, idents, interstitials, new content types - as it has been on structure of the site. (I'm very much aware this bespoke content creation approach is deliberately swimming against the tide, in terms of a new media defining itself by chattering around '2.0', but hey. I don't feel the world needs five new section editors' blogs, say, or another academically interesting but ultimately pointless mashup of feeds. I do have some ideas for geolocation-based feeds and subscriber services, later on, but we'll see how this all pans out.) So there's been no talk of platforms or applications thus far, and much of last week was consequently spent commissioning content production, getting it delivered, edited, encoded, uploaded as it was switching servers, domains, creating layouts etc. And thus Monocle 0.1 has a world premiere of the trailer for a new Murakami adaptation, All God's Children Can Dance, and the sound of the number one show on Afghan radio, talked through by the presenter, Massood Sanjer; a fascinating interview with the CEO of Lego, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp; a photo slideshow from the Japanese Maritime Defence Force (JMSDF) story, with audio voiceover from the journalist, Fiona Wilson; as well as some tasters of our PDF-based global destination guides, 25x25. All done last week.
The site is being hammered somewhat as I write, so we'll be upgrading our hosting asap. Also, a quick squint at Google Analytics reveals that most users have Flash 9 installed, so we'll switch to the Flash 9 versions of those videos. (Flash 9's pretty amazing, better quality, at less than half the size.) In the meantime, bear with us. Or check the version of the Lego Q&A that I uploaded to Google Video. I'm keen to explore these external syndication options, as you might imagine, having devised 'the whole internet is your canvas' strategy for the BBC recently, as part of the 2.0 work.
It's been great to handle audio and video content again, actually. Ironically, I did very little of that at the BBC - an organisation ostensibly about those things - and hadn't really edited audio or video for about five years, since my days at state51. There, working across numerous music industry clients - from Spice Girls to Chemical Brothers to Bryan Ferry to David Sylvian - the generic multimedia worker of the late '90s would comfortably switch from Premiere to SoundEdit Pro to Photoshop to BBEdit. I thought those days had gone, until I had to edit the JMSDF slideshow audio down by half, found myself downloading Audacity, and spending a couple of hours in Sennheiser-land. I love those craft processes, actually, and though I don't imagine I'll be doing that much again, I did enjoy it. Likewise, to be thrown back into a world of codecs and bitrates, Sorensen Squeeze, and so on, was a rapid but rewarding learning curve. At state51, we ended up with a (very special) specialist for that kind of stuff - Matt Fretwell, who now works at Pretzel - but again, it's just a rewarding craft process to be around.
So, that was the week that was. Many thanks to development agency Rufus Leonard, who have been stars, as have Slipmode on the post-production front. Also, at Winkreative, the designer Maurus Fraser, working with me and Richard Spencer Powell, Creative Director of Monocle.
Meanwhile, the paper version of Monocle has been hitting the shelves, generally to great acclaim. It's been interesting to see where newsstands place the magazine. Seems they're struggling with a publication which blurs boundaries between current affairs, business, culture, design etc. Here are some shots, also indicating how well the black cover stands out on the kiosk, I think.