Listened In is 2ZY’s air-check blog. Every week, we listen to a random 20 minute sample of a station or programme in the news.

Monocle 24 is an online radio station from Tyler Brûlé’s glossy current affairs mag of the same name. “From the point of view its ambitions for global reach and coverage of world affairs, Monocle 24 will probably resemble and sound like many commonwealth public service broadcasters, including BBC World Service, as well as shades of ABC and Canada’s CBC,” he told the Telegraph when it launched back in October.

Big aim. So how’s it sound? ‘Listened In’ tuned in one afternoon two-thirds of the way though its weekly food magazine programme.

WHO The Menu with Markus Hippi

WHAT Monocle 24

WHEN 10 July 2012

1444 We’re midway through a feature called ‘The Menu’s Barista of the Week’. He tells us about how the coffee scene has developed in Copenhagen alongside the Danish food scene. Customers now understand coffee is a complex type of food and want to know how it’s grown, roasted and prepared.

1446  Markus: Back-announces tape and tells us, ‘You are listening to the Menu.’

ID: Random bit of jazz. No voiceover. How very NPR.

Here’s the thing with Monocle 24. In its rightful ambition to put brilliant writers and thinkers on their online station, they sometimes overlook the kind of radio vernacular needed to make you truly engage with the presenter or indeed, the content. Take a look at this cue, which I’ve logged verbatim.

“Well, while the Menu team was mostly in Copenhagen, the London team looked at what was to come. Now, are you a fan of Food Festivals? We have already visited one today, but as it is the season indeed, why not don shades and visit another? On the Menu and in hand is English wine. The Glynde Food and English Wine Festival will take place during the 14th and 15th of July in the idyllic region of Glynde in England. Monocle’s researcher Ferdinando Augusto Barcecko spoke with Lord Francis Hampden, founder of the Festival, who told us about the chefs who have made it to the main stage at the event, about its history and mulled over what it takes to put on a great food event.”

Some of this is down to using broadcasters for whom English is a second language. But that chirpy anachronistic style is out of kilter with the quality of the content.

Lord Hampden is a good enough egg. Says he’s lucky to live in an Elizabethan House big enough to put on a big festival. English cuisine is very exciting now. British are embracing it as much as gardening. Lots of big names like John Torode are appearing.

The questions are a bit PR-y. ‘How do you organise such high profile guests?’. ‘Apart from the festival, do you have any other projects at the moment?’

1456 Markus is back with this week’s dinner soundtrack recommendation. He assures us, “This is Danish, but no normal indie Skandi caper. It’s Brazilian Bossa with a frosted finish”. You won’t hear a crunch and roll like that on Heart.

SONG: Copenhaquen/Steen Rasmussen

1459 ID: Stylised voices reading: LDN NYC TYO M24

ID: Number of languages saying ‘You’re listening to Monocle 24’

AD: Rolex

1500 ID: Synthesised beepy Pip-alikes

Newsreader, “2300 in Tokyo, 1700 in Khartoum, 1500 here in London, and 0700 in San Francisco. Serving the World this is Monocle 24”

NEWS: Syria UN Talks (Kofi Annan clip). Egypt’s Parliament convenes despite dissolution (Hillary Clinton clip). German Foreign Minister vists Egypt. (Clip). Venezuelan President says he’s better from cancer. Trial of Libyan intelligence chief. Tonga Royal Wedding (Clip of minister).

Bedded appropriately, well-presented by Jonathan Wheatley, and perfectly executed tricky pronunciations.


As you might expect from the man who brought us *Wallpaper, then Monocle the Magazine, there’s an assured air and an opulence about this online station. You sit through a 30” Krug pre-roll before listening, and everything else seems to be sponsored by Rolex. You won’t hear Go Compare or Maureen in these breaks.

There are no presenter pictures on the site, but as you listen you can imagine them sipping Flat Whites (are those still cool?) in a sophisticated monochrome studio, dressed as if they’d stepped out of an Esquire fashion shoot. There is an un-hurriedness about the output, clearly designed to attract BBC Radio 4 and World Service devotees. The international agenda of the bulletins, the eclectic choices in music and the rather random speech scheduling make this a fascinating, if occasionally challenging, listen.

Cleverly, Monocle 24 has started with a small range of built speech shows aimed at the core interests of its upmarket target audience – design, entrepreneurs, culture, world debate – repeated at various times across the week, surrounded by sweeps of what it calls ‘elegant music tracks’.

If you’re a pure radio head, there is a lot here you could find issue with. And a small dose of some radio truths could make it a smoother listening experience. But there is some interesting ambition and thought going on here – and let’s face it, anyone trying to re-invent speech radio should be encouraged.

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