Let’s Get Digital: Bringing In-Flight Magazines Into the Digital Cabin

Panasonic Avionics< Panasonic Avionics
06/02/21 4 MIN READ

Ever since Pan Am first published Clipper Travel 70 years ago, the airline industry has used in-flight magazines to add a touch of glamour to the in-cabin experience, earn additional advertising revenue, and perhaps learn a thing or two about consumer habits.

Now, airlines can convert printed reading materials that normally live in a seatback into attractive and revenue-enhancing electronic formats. COVID-19 has only accelerated this trend as the airline industry looks for touchless and less-touch cabin experiences. According to a recent study, the global market for digital magazine platforms is expected to grow by 42% between 2020 and 2025.

Digitalization Reduces Carbon Costs

Overall, digitizing content helps airlines to do more with less across the travel journey, from self-serve check-in to sharing information. Offering in-flight magazines on seatbacks or personal electronic devices (PEDs) can reduce operating expenses, increase consumer purchases of extras and upgrades, and help fulfill the industry’s commitment to increasing green technologies and reducing emissions.

For one thing, reducing the sheer weight of onboard printed materials lowers fuel costs. For instance, carrying just one 0.6-pound (0.27-kg) magazine aboard a Boeing 737 can cost nearly $19 per year, depending upon current fuel prices. Multiplying that by the number of seats on a given commercial airliner, then again by its expected service life, can add tens of thousands of dollars to its total cost of ownership.

In addition, digitization lowers an airline’s overall fuel carbon footprint. A 2010 analysis of the carbon impact of a single National Geographic magazine showed that, at the time, one magazine produced approximately the same amount of carbon dioxide as driving a car for three kilometers.

Simply put, digitalizing in-flight magazines brings the industry closer to the International Air Transport Association’s goal of capping and eventually reducing net aviation CO2 emissions. It also helps member organizations to meet their internal commitments, such as LATAM Airlines’ Corporate Strategy of Sustainability.

Modernizing Boosts Consumer Satisfaction

Digital formats also improve the passenger’s flying experience by giving them fresher, more up-to-date content. Since an electronic publisher doesn’t need to wait for their supply, distribution, and logistics chain to print, bind, package, deliver, and inventory physical stock, a new issue can hit the screens before a printed version hits the corner newsstand. Digital reading experiences also offer magazine publishers new opportunities to integrate interactive components and dynamic design into their digital products, which also makes them more engaging to customers.

While a printed magazine is, essentially, a standalone non-electronic reading device, the online version serves as an integrated component of the airline’s content management system. Panasonic’s Onboard Reader includes a user-friendly, self-service content management system (CMS) that allows the airline to update and refresh content as desired, offering the consumer a more satisfying product. Of course, a customer’s level of satisfaction is only as useful as one’s ability to leverage it. An effective digital content platform should be capable of integration with a cloud-based data analytics platform.

Capturing relevant data from a passenger’s viewing habits puts the airline in front of consumer trends and identifies promising marketing opportunities.

Knowing how passengers like to pass the time in flight makes it easier to offer a personalized basket of reading and shopping opportunities. In other words, if you know what they like, you can sell it to them. Integrating an online advertising platform inserts digital ads into the magazine, which creates ancillary revenue streams such as advertising revenue and impulse e-commerce purchases.

Making the COVID Connection

Electronic reading material also reassures passengers that the cabin environment is safe and hygienic. While recent medical research has downplayed the risk of contracting COVID-19 from surfaces, some passengers may still be reluctant to place their hands on cabin surfaces, including both printed magazines and seatback controls. In response, seatback screen controls and overall seating areas are being redesigned to reduce the need for touching surfaces.

Capturing relevant data from a passenger’s viewing habits puts the airline in front of consumer trends and identifies promising marketing opportunities.

At the same time, digital magazine file formats are generally compatible with web browsers, so the airline has the option of allowing passengers to read them on PEDs as well, whether before, after, or during their flight.

Still, seatback screen systems are here to stay. Compared to PEDs, they offer better image quality, fewer connectivity issues, and provide the airline more control over a passenger’s content choices. In April, United Airlines announced plans to retrofit them into their older narrow-body aircraft.

To keep consumers interested in its in-flight magazine Hemispheres during the pandemic, United developed a dual-format system, offering the digital version during flights while mailing printed copies to its elite flyers. This changes the purpose of the printed version from a casual cabin accessory to a luxury product used to preserve brand loyalty among preferred customers, with the digital version performing the workhorse duties of enhancing the cabin experience, capturing behavioral data, and generating e-commerce revenue.

To explore how electronic reading content can improve your carrier’s bottom line, learn more about the Panasonic Avionics’ Onboard Reader, then contact us to discuss your organization’s plans for a digital future.

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