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Reinventing Travel Media Part 3: The future is personal and interactive

Concluding my series of blogs on Reinventing Travel Media, I uncover what new technology and social media mean for the future of travel mediaIf you haven’t read Part 1 or Part 2 yet, I recommend you read them first on the Ink blog.

Don’t lose sight of the real people

As the tech and media world becomes obsessed with digital numbers and big data, airlines – in their analog ways – silently noticed that they have actual real people. And lots of them. In fact, lots and lots of them and they are just waiting for something to do.

I founded a media company 20 years ago and now, with our clients, we are getting in front of a global audience of 677 million real passengers, with real eyeballs, real wallets, and real spending power.

But American Airlines alone today will have half a million people on their planes. That means in 1 year alone American Airlines carries the population of UK, France and Italy put together.

Despite these huge analogue numbers, gone are the days of the faceless organization delivering one-way communications.

Now we can get more personal and interactive

As we all interact with one another on a minute-to-minute and second-to-second basis posting, liking, sharing, blogging and displaying, we essentially announce, proclaim and promote our personalities: I like this, I do this, I go there and I’ve got this.

Travel media is no different.

The travel world has been turned upside down by TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Expedia Twitter, Facebook and Flight Tracker. Long distance has been replaced by immediate and short personal interactions.

Here is an interesting fact: American Airlines now has a staff of 21 in the social media team made up of customer service and marketing departments. They make sure that your questions are answered 24 hours a day. They now respond to around 6000 tweets a week (that’s 240 per hour).

Making the most of new opportunities to engage

So it seems that all that has happened is that there is a new quicker channel of delivery and it is up to us – the media companies to join those dots for the traveller.

In the last year we added some hashtags to our magazines and now people on their vacations are sending pictures back to us the magazine. So Janet and John have such a connection with the magazine, the moment they have a cool pic they send it back to the magazine in hope we might publish it or win some free flights.

As the content is now available digitally and our magazine brands are an integrated part of that social media two-way conversation. Posting pictures, liking articles, travellers’ commenting on their experiences. For example, The Foo Fighters were on the cover of the American Way and we launched with a video showing the magazines coming off the printing press – and it got near on 750,000 views on social media. For a printing press! It’s great!

So we are used to people wanting their social media immediately, interactive, and for short bursts. But that just isn’t the case on a large number of flights today.

But let’s not forget what people want – and what still works

The plane is travel media in its best location. A recent report showed that 3 of the top 6 most affluent (readership) magazines in the USA were inflight and those people still want a lean back experience; relax, read, digest and enjoy the smooth flight.

So what we are finding through this conversation is that many of the same travel media principles and habits of 1966 are still going to be true in 2015 and beyond.

The plane is still one of the most unique places for media. 80% of passengers read the magazine – and a 20-minute read, is an AVERAGE. These figures are eye watering for the advertiser of today. And the repeat rate of our annual clients is 91%, this flies in the face of the attrition from print advertisers. And as a result, we are seeing that the worlds most recognized brands of watches, cars (and more recently technology and telecommunications companies) are climbing on board. Gone are the days of low quality adverts. It’s now a high quality experience.

The future will take the best of today, but make it faster and more interactive

So let me finish up now and tell you: Paper in airplanes is not going to disappear anytime soon. But it will change – it is going to become of a higher quality (a trend that we at Ink have pioneered) and more people are going to access that “paper” in a digital form. As that digital passenger experience happens, the interactions will just get quicker and you will, via your tablet or smartphone, be able to order/enquire/buy off of that “page” with direct links to advertisers.

Some truths will always remain – the plane will still be flying at 500 mph and at 34, 000 ft, that’s fairly certain. On board, you as a passenger will be consuming more content in a faster and more interactive way. It could be through a paper magazine, but it could just as easily be through your tablet or phone. Most likely, in today’s ‘multi-screen’ world, you’ll be using both.

To read more travel media news and insight from the team at Ink, head over to our blog and subscribe for future updates.

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Reinventing Travel Media Part 2: The fundamental appeal of inflight media

Welcome the 2nd installment of my blog series on Reinventing Travel Media. If you haven’t already read Part 1, to see my review on where we are today. In this post, I’ll explore the appeal of inflight media to passengers, and what this could mean for its future.

A simple beginning

Inflight magazines were firstly created as a brand extension of the airline to help passengers sit back, relax, learn, enjoy, shop, plan their next trip and use up some hours while the plane and its staff do all of the work.

Then they discovered the real potential

But today, airlines clearly understand the immediate and added value of this medium. That they have millions of actual people, every minute of every hour of every day around the globe in their very hands and seats and they can control the dialogue. For example the worlds largest airline (American Airlines) will carry 500,000 TODAY.

A world of opportunity with digital

There is no doubt: We have all seen, and all been part of this growth and of this growth in the digital/mobile space as well. And the airplane is becoming fun again, how many more videos of Southwest cabin crew can you watch?

With the advent of WIFI on planes and individual video screens at each seat in every class, we will see this digital distribution becoming ever more popular and in turn, I have no doubt that it will get faster, more accessible and MAYBE even cheaper on board.

This year, we are very proud to have launched a new app for American Airlines. So now, all magazine content can be delivered in or out of flight – on your phone or tablet at your convenience – and as time goes on, much of the archive material will be there too.

At Ink, we have seen first-hand the importance of cross-channel media with our United Hemispheres Magazine and App – that customers engage with the magazine on the aircraft and use our hugely popular “Three Perfect Days” mobile content as an actual guide/travel companion during their travels.

An audience that won’t stop growing

Many people are predicting that the year 2015 will see more people traveling than ever before. It makes sense: As we all become part of that global economy with more emerging countries, carrying more business activities than ever before with our mature markets of Europe and the USA. Therefore, more people WILL travel. And, direct contact still works best: Face to face meetings will always work better than a conference call – people still want to be together with friends and family. Emails, Skype and FaceTime have not stopped people traveling. If anything, they have brought a greater curiosity.

And on top of all that we all want to travel for our leisure time too…

But for the purposes of this conversation – we first of all have to all go back and again acknowledge that airlines of late have really found themselves to also be big players in the media industry. And very present in the digital arena.

In my next blog I’ll explore what this means for the future of inflight media – just a hint, the buzzwords here are personal and interactive. To read more travel media and travel advertising news and insight from the team at Ink, head over to our blog.

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Reinventing Travel Media Part 1: Where are we today?

Recently I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at the New York Times Travel show on the future of travel media. As the world’s leading travel media company, Ink has quite a role in that future. In a three part series of blogs, I wanted to share with you some of our key insights on this fast evolving landscape…

Lets firstly deal with the facts:

3 Billion People travel the world on airplanes each year.

826 million of those passengers are in the US alone.

Travel is growing at a clip of 5% a year.

Boeing predicts they will need to manufacture 37,000 new planes by 2033 to keep up with demand.

Our audience is growing.

Each of these travelers are voracious consumers of media – they read, tweet, post, stream, like, share –

Our audience is a very powerful (and opinionated) media force.

Which leaves airlines in the unique position of being accidental media companies – they need to engage their customers like never before. They need these 3 billion, high-influential passengers to engage with them, have a good experience with them, like them, recommend them and not negatively impact their brand or their business.

This is where Ink comes in. We create magazines and cross-channel media platforms for 24 airlines around the world. 677 million passengers a year interact with the media we create on behalf of our airline partners.

Before we can we talk about a re-invention in travel media, we need to understand what travel media is, who invented it, what its journey has been and the key priorities in the market today.

We’ve come a long way…

So firstly, thank you to PanAM, as they invented inflight magazines in 1966. (A great year if you are English)

… And many think we’ve got a lot further to go:

The great crystal ball watchers of the Travel industry are currently predicting:

  1. space travel
  2. underwater travel
  3. extreme travel
  4. airship travel
  5. Supersonic travel

But some things will always be wanted…

I can still see those futuristic passengers wanting to read something on those futuristic journeys. Travelers love that ephemeral moment and the emotional connection that a paper magazine brings.

To find out why, stay tuned for the second installment of this blog series where I explore the fundamental appeal of inflight media, and what this could mean for its future. Head over to our blog pages to subscribe to receive the next update.

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Do we have your customer on board?

The modern marketer has an embarrassment of choice when it comes to reaching their ideal customer: from traditional media like newsstand magazines, newspapers and direct mail, to new technologies like email, social and digital. With choice comes confusion, however – how do you find your customer through the noise? Which channels make an impact and deliver sales?

There are some channels that seem obvious: the business person reads the business press, the fashionista lives on instagram, the global explorer contributes to tripadvisor and the fitness enthusiast reads specialist sports magazines. But do they? And if they do, do they only consume media in these obvious contexts?

Let’s challenge this with a real-life example – me:

  • Over the Christmas break I spent two days on different golf courses yet I’ve never read a golfing magazine or website
  • I own 4 different bikes yet I’ve never bought a specialist cycling magazine or been to a cycling trade show
  • My home and family are kitted out with over 40 technology products, from mobiles, tablets, and PCs to smart TVs, printers and fridges; nevertheless I’ve never picked up Wired nor read technology blogs
  • I head up a multi-million pound company yet I’ve never been a subscriber to the Economist or Forbes, and I last read a copy of Harvard Business Review for 5 minutes in 2011

The point I’m making here is that great marketing happens when brands realize that their customer lives in multiple contexts, and ensures that their message is always there, whether they’re online, on their mobile, at home or on the go.

Going back to our real-life example, you can see that I’ve got a lot of interests that brands would like to talk to me about, but as you might guess I’m pretty time poor. Whether you’re wanting me to play golf on your resort, or buy my 5th bike with you, I’m going to be pretty hard to reach through the obvious channels. In fact, finding a channel that reaches me when I have a little more time to pay attention to it, focussed and undisturbed, must be the holy grail. Luckily for bike manufacturers and golf resorts everywhere, I happen to travel a lot. Sat on a plane, unplugged and away from the world, that’s where I have the luxury of time…

What brands really need to ask when choosing each media channel is:

  1. Does my target audience interact with this channel?
  2. What is the quality of that engagement?
  3. What is the context of that engagement?

Now perhaps you’ve never considered inflight media. But if you evaluate it against these three questions, you will see there’s a compelling case to do so:

  1. Your target audience will almost certainly take a flight this year – whether for business, on holiday, visiting family or starting a new adventure. This year, 677 million passengers will be flying with our airlines – that’s the equivalent reach of three superbowls.
  2. On board a plane, your customer is sealed off, unplugged and away from the world below. They have that precious commodity that has gradually been eroded from the rest of our lives: time. In front of them, the inflight magazine, and at least 61% of passengers will pick it up and read it on any one flight. And this is not an idle flick through – our studies show that our readers spend an average of over 20 minutes of quality reading time with our award winning content. Inflight magazines are hugely influential: 75% of passengers have acted upon an advert they’ve seen in a magazine (e.g. Looked up the company online, took a photo of the page), while 20% have purchased an advertised product at a later date.
  3. Context is key – flights provide a critical moment for quiet reflection and making plans. Travellers use the inflight magazine as a source of inspiration for all aspects of their lives: 84% of our readers actively look for tourism information and adverts, while 31% look for business insight, and 42% for health and beauty ideas.

So do we have your customer on board? The answer is almost certainly YES. This is your audience.

To read more travel media and travel advertising news and insight from the team at Ink, head over to our blog.