Beyond the Mekong

AsiaLIFE and Publishing Hip Magazines in Vietnam

Recent Features

Beyond the Mekong | Society | Southeast Asia

AsiaLIFE and Publishing Hip Magazines in Vietnam

Jonny Edbrooke speaks about his various media ventures and the importance of being nice in Southeast Asia.

AsiaLIFE and Publishing Hip Magazines in Vietnam
Credit: Vicheka Kol

Jonny Edbrooke studied book making and worked for a printing company in Britain before moving to Hong Kong via Bangkok in 1985, when he began carving out a career in publishing as a designer of high-end magazines.

In Hong Kong, he worked for Marco Magazine, which was produced for the Hong Kong Group, Epicure, and the South China Morning Post’s Sunday Magazine. All were full color, glossy and targeted an audience with money to spend.

Ten years later he took that knowledge to Vietnam. The country was still recovering from war, the expat communities in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City were tiny, the government was communist, and the expectations for publishing in a one-party state were low.

But Edbrooke thrived and went into a partnership that would produce AsiaLIFE, an arts and culture magazine that attracted a loyal following as the Vietnamese economy recovered and expanded with a post-war baby boom.

It was a publishing recipe that also worked well in Cambodia and attracted the attention of National Geographic. They were heady days but the costs were high, the media industry went digital, and AsiaLIFE folded after a 16-year run.

Edbrooke met with The Diplomat’s Luke Hunt at his home in Ho Chi Minh City where he talked about working with more than 70 different mastheads, his successes and failures, like AsiaLIFE’s attempt to publish in Thailand, and where the industry is or isn’t going next.

Underpinning it all, he says, is the importance of being nice.