REPORT: Is Print Dying?

Whilst this pretty nifty (if not shouty!) video might appear somewhat self-serving considering its creator is Ink, the world’s largest inflight magazine producer, they do highlight an interesting topic in aviation right now. Is the in-flight magazine dying? Apparently not if this months Aeroflot magazine is to be taken seriously weighing in at a whopping 340 pages. Whilst seen as almost an institution and something that a seat pocket would feel eerily empty without, the humble in-flight magazine has been hunted down by cost saving hawks within the Airline industry. The weight on the plane and printing costs can be quite staggering especially for some of the juggernaut fleets out there right now.

This said, the in-flight magazine industry is starting to fight back, offering a wealth of opportunities to an airline that are starting to be realised and now harnessed with success. With the wealth of advertising potential in a magazine, it’s possible to make these products incredibly profitable to an airline, and not only this, but can offer as the only brand point of difference between low cost offerings, due to the fact that seats, in-flight catering and routes are almost identical on certain routes around the world.

They offer a tone of voice to their passengers and can do as much to satisfy a customers experience of the airline as a cabin crew member could. It’s estimated that a captive reader, which in effect you are, (trapped in a sardine tin) spends on average 25 minutes flicking through the literature on a flight, not only this, but it isn’t just a magazine you pick up the once. You use it to check onboard duty free offerings, food and drinks, entertainment, or even for the humble route map. Therefore as a brand tool, they can be invaluable, especially considering most of them are complimentary, and the airline actually would encourage you to take it off the plane with you, and hopefully leave on your coffee table to tempt you to fly again with them.

Publishers of these magazines are constantly trying to push boundaries, and link the publications with the rest of the experience, using QR codes to access web content, online websites offering videos and now ‘still young’ iPad apps that have a pretty basic virtual copy of the magazine to flick through at your own convenience. What is a magazine to its audience though? Primarily a Duty Free magazine, or a way of highlighting entertainment? Does editorial really have any place in an in-flight title? Personally I think it does.

One thing the magazines are struggling to do is actively speak to a defined audience. Therefore some of the content can seem a little safe and bland. This is because it is perhaps one of the only magazine markets that have to appeal to every demographic, both young to old and male to female. That might explain whilst you may flick through a magazine it can be a little tricky to find more than one article that speaks to you. Airline magazines try to act as a catch all, and are somewhat restrained by the airline’s marketing and brand strategies, who definitely wouldn’t try to offend any part of their passenger demographic.

It’s because of this fact I fear that airline magazines might start to dwindle, people do read them, but is it just because it’s in front of them rather than it actually appeals to them? As society starts to lose interest in the simple ‘always-there’ airline magazine, it has to learn to adapt and change in tune with the ever changing airline industry, or it may become a relic of a time gone by. Airline magazines need to adopt a stronger character and personality as a whole, offer a more intelligent read and utilise technological advances in the industry. Whilst a handful of magazines are doing this, there isn’t enough change occurring across the airline magazine market to really make an impact. One to take note of is Delta’s Sky magazine which acts as its own stand alone news stand publication available for purchase in America. This confidence in itself actually shows a strength in conviction and makes the magazine simply seem ‘as important’ as any other news stand title you might bring on board with you, whilst also offering a distorted feeling of value by taking the complimentary copy home with you after a flight.

Do you know of an airline magazine that you really think offers something different to the rest of it’s competitors? Which is your favourite and stands out from the crowd? Do you think the in-flight magazine has already died, or will it live forever? Let me know.

One comment

  1. Guillaume

    Since these mags also provide ancillary revenue, I doubt they will disappear. On US routes, they’r emore like consumption catalogs than mags, actually. On the other hand, I could picture both print and online versions, the latter being directly downloaded to one’s PDS/pad etc… as one boards the flight.
    BA has one basic mag, but it is modified slightly on Euro routes vs. Transtl. Not sure about the other regions; I’m just a pond hopper. In addition, on the Euro routes, they offer a kind of business inflight magazine, clearly responding to the econ-orineted demographics.

    One should assume these mags are a success, too. Look at the number of airports that now publish their own infomercial sheets!

    For the fun side of it. I recall BEA used to print its safety instructions into its flight mags in the 60s. They figured since pax were taking souvenirs, ‘might as well save the money on plastic/cardboard instructions!

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