As connectivity becomes the norm on airlines and access to the outside world begins to erode the captive onboard audience, what will become of the humble in-flight magazine?
According to a Deloitte report on the future of in-flight entertainment, the in-flight magazine will soon be digitized and viewed via seatback screens or personal electronic devices. From a cost-savings point of view, this makes sense: Consulting firm Infosys estimated that by doing away with the print edition of in-flight magazines and replacing them with tablets, airlines could save up to $3.3 million a year in fuel alone, in addition to thousands in printing costs and distribution.
Most in-flight magazines already provide content on digital platforms. Many have companion websites and iPad apps, as well as Twitter profiles, Facebook pages and Pinterest boards. Companies like Delta, which recently redesigned their magazine Sky, are emphasizing exclusive digital content to better extend the magazine’s reach beyond the cabin. Inside the cabin, technology like DTI’s eReader allows in-flight publications to be part of the seatback screen experience – Air Canada’s enRoute recently began uploading its city guides and list of Canada’s Best New Restaurants to the AVOD of its new 787s. For connected planes, the airline can also stream content directly to passengers’ devices.
When you bring the in-flight magazine to the screen, new advertising opportunities and ways to satisfy your customers open up. For frequent flyers, a monthly print magazine may lose its lustre, but with digital versions of the publication at her fingertips, she’ll never have to see the same article twice. Airlines can also build passenger profiles to deliver revenue-generating content that’s tailored to passenger interests and activity. For the leisure traveler, who is less likely to pay for in-flight Wi-Fi, airlines can offer their magazine’s website or digital versions of their magazine for free on their devices. That way, passengers will still feel “online” while remaining within an airline’s content ecosystem.
What about the value – let along revenue generation – that the printed page brings to the table? According to two recent studies penned by Norway’s University of Stravanger, people are less likely to comprehend information read on screen than in print. In one of these studies, principle researcher Anne Mangen divided a group of 10th grade students in two and asked half to read fiction and non-fiction pieces in print and the other half to read the same texts on a computer screen. The latter group understood less than those who had read the pieces on paper. In another study conducted on adults, Mangen tested how they would retain information read on a Kindle versus in a book. Again, her findings showed that the Kindle group had a harder time reconstructing the plot of the mystery novel than those who had sat down with the paper version. Mangen hypothesizes that the disparity is likely due to the tactile nature of the printed page.
“When you read on paper you can sense with your fingers a pile of pages on the left growing, and shrinking on the right,” Mangen told The Guardian newspaper in August. “You have the tactile sense of progress, in addition to the visual… [the differences for Kindle readers] might have something to do with the fact that the fixity of a text on paper, and this very gradual unfolding of paper as you progress through a story, is some kind of sensory offload, supporting the visual sense of progress when you’re reading. Perhaps this somehow aids the reader, providing more fixity and solidity to the reader’s sense of unfolding and progress of the text, and hence the story.”
According to APEX’s 2014 Passenger Insights survey, 4 out of 5 passengers read the in-flight magazine. For airlines that use magazine content to support a brand narrative and to promote new routes, destinations and other revenue opportunities, print may be more effective at delivering that message meaningfully to clients.
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