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Is There an Inflight Magazine in Your Future?

With the recent demise of the once-ubiquitous SkyMall catalog, it’s time to ask whether another dog-eared denizen of the seatback pocket has outlived its usefulness.

With so many more compelling options for inflight diversion, does anyone other than the publishers still care about inflight magazines? You know the ones. Slick. Glossy. Full of lightweight content (“Some Celeb’s Favorite Dive in Anytown, USA”). And a none-too-subtle sprinkling of airline self-promotion (“How XYZ Air Is Making the Skies Friendlier for Our Customers”).

Today, a seemingly endless torrent of movies and tunes is available through the airlines’ own inflight-entertainment systems, not to mention access to the universe of Internet content via WiFi, and the gigabytes of content loaded onto flyers’ smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. So who needs American’s “American Way,” United’s “Hemispheres,” or Delta’s “Sky” magazines?

According to a Bloomberg report, the airlines remain big fans of their own mags, and see a bright future for onboard print publications. Their motivations are twofold. First, and most obviously, there’s the revenue aspect. The magazines are potentially read by millions of consumers, allowing the airlines to squeeze princely sums from advertisers interested in reaching a highly desirable demographic. In other words, magazine publishing can be a lucrative profit center unto itself.

And then, secondly, there’s the marketing effect. The magazines are a way of reinforcing the airlines’ branding, and give the companies a platform to promote themselves and their services.

But those alleged benefits depend on one key variable: whether, and how much, airline passengers actually read the magazines. It’s one thing to boast that 140 million United passengers had access to its magazine during a year. How many of them opened the magazine and read it?

Solid readership data are hard to come by: How do you count actual readers? I suspect that the numbers are quite low, and getting lower every month. But I don’t have the data, any more than the airlines do. So I put it to our readers, by way of an admittedly unscientific reality check:

  • Do you read the inflight magazine when you fly?
  • How often?
  • How much time do you spend reading it?
  • Do you read it more or less today than you did a year ago?
  • How much do expect to read it a year from now?

Please weigh in in the Comments section and we’ll wrap up the responses in a follow-up post in a few weeks.

This article originally appeared on

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