American Airlines has re-launched their inflight magazine, American Way.
I spoke with American’s Vice President of Marketing, Fern Fernandez (regular readers may know him from US Airways, since the Dividend Miles program reported up to him). Fern told me that they produce 700,000 copies of the magazine each month, and they estimate that it gets 500,000 eyeballs each day and claim annual reach of 193 million people.
Inflight Magazines Are Big Business
At a time when print advertising is facing major challenges, inflight magazines still present a real opportunity. Fifteen years ago a friend was trying to launch a project to put advertising on aircraft overhead bins.
That didn’t really take off, but the demographic is irresistible — high average income, confined.. and bored.
American West was the first airline to do tray table advertising, a practice that moved over to US Airways on some aircraft. AirTran actually launched ads on the backs of the tray tables (at US Airways you actually had to put the tray table down in order to see the ad). United experimented with it as well.
So how do you put out an attractive, engaging product that passengers will value, that will in turn be attractive to advertisers?
American’s New Strategy for American Way
American used to produce their inflight magazine in-house. The Onion actually suggested that the airline was merely a distribution mechanism for their core magazine business.
Back in August I reported that American would be outsourcing publication of the magazine to a third party. They’ve partnered with London-based Ink which has also produced magazines for United, TAM, Brussels Airlines, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Iberia, and Jazeera Airways among others.
Working in the travel space there’s certainly economies of scale and scope, and outsourcing it makes sense. Part of this change is putting the publication online, making it downloadable, and offering an app including embedded video. Fern told me that the magazine will be whitelisted on Gogo inflight internet.
American Way is now monthly, and the January issue also marks the same magazine being used across the American and US Airways operations. With monthly publishing frequency, I may have a shot at having one of my letters to the editor published — apparently they receive 37,000 reader letters per year, which is quite a lot to select from for their ‘Air Mail’ section. (They run a drawing to give away miles to people who publish letters.)
The Magazine Will Change…
There are changes. There’s no more opening letter from the CEO. That’s probably for the best, Doug Parker shouldn’t spend his time editing or signing off on magazine content.
It’s replaced by a new feature letter offering a different employee’s perspective each month. And there’s an opening letter from the Publisher, which is Ink and not American. We’re likely to see a better-produced magazine overall, but it will be a different magazine — easier to skim quickly and in short doses.
On the other hand, the popular puzzles in the magazine remain, though Fern says they’re being made harder.
How Good is the Content in the First Issue?
The inaugural issue in this new format features a short piece by the barbecue editor of Texas Monthly.
The conceit of the piece is places you can take in within an easy drive of the airport (“there’s plenty of smoked meat within an easy drive of the Austin airport, from which American offers a slew of regional flights.”). Regular readers know I’m a big fan of their number one pick, Black’s Barbecue. (Here’s how to skip the lines at Black’s.)
I’d leave off Kreuz Market entirely, except you might as well drop in since it’s just down the street from Black’s. City Market in Luling is good but not great, in my opinion.
But it seems odd to include the legendary Snow’s on this list because you’re going to have to land in Austin pretty early and on a Saturday if you’re going to make it there in time (the article advises, “Get there before 9 a.m. if you want your pick of the menu”, but there’s not a single American flight that arrives in Austin before 9).
Regardless, it’s an article I’d take with me off the flight. I’ve rarely said that about pieces in inflight magazines, except perhaps United’s ‘Three Perfect Days’ series.
Will You Take the Magazine Off Your Next Flight?
The magazine is a ‘take away’ — you can take it with you. I always thought that had to be tough on the airline, to know when a passenger had taken it in order to put a new one in the seat pocket. It turns out that since they’re required to have a safety card there, and they check it each day, adding the inflight magazine to the checklist isn’t that big an addition.
These paper magazines do add weight though, but the price of fuel is dropping so it’s the perfect time to add more content!
Do you read the inflight magazine? What do you think of American Way?