'Swagat' were the only in-flight magazines that you knew till a few years ago. It was a different story then. There were fewer airline companies in India and Indian Airlines and Air-India ruled the sector.
The in-flight magazines that these airlines published carried just a few ads and these were the contract publishers' only source of revenue because the airlines did not pay them anything. Due to this, these magazines were never on the priority list of advertisers and media planners. Media planners say air travel was not a viable option then because only the rich could afford the costly fares. Hence, the reach of the magazines, too, was limited.
But now with the advent of private airlines and more numbers of low-cost airlines in the skies, advertisers have found a lucrative and effective platform to reach out to their TGs.
As close watchers of the industry say, it all started with the entry of Jet Airways. This private airline company started an in-flight magazine called 'Jet Wings', which became extremely popular. Luxury brands found it an effective medium in which to place their brands.
Lately, new entrants in this sector such as Go Air and Kingfisher Airlines have also qualified as effective media vehicles for media planners and their clients. Go Air has 'Gladrags', Air Deccan has 'Simplify' and Kingfisher has 'Hi! Blitz' as their in-flight magazines.
Air travel has become cheaper and, therefore, increased, which has led to a corresponding increase in the sampling of in-flight magazines. Most people flip through these magazines during a flight, some even read them.
The quality of content in the magazines has also improved. As Praveen Tripathi, CEO, Media Direction, asserts, "Some of these magazines offer wide editorial coverage on varied subjects, which makes them interesting to read. And the audience is a captive one because most travellers have little to do on a flight."
Of course, the magazines that cannot maintain editorial quality face the heat. As Nandini Dias, vice-president, Lodestar, says, "Air Deccan's 'Simplify' looks more like a rate card for the food served in-flight, so we don't prefer it."
Nevertheless, Dias asserts that the readership is quite high for many in-flight magazines, although there are no figures to prove it.
It's surprising that despite there being so many in-flight magazines today, IRS does not include them in its measurement process. However, Tripathi informs us that two independent surveys do check on in-flight magazines.
These, he says, are the IMRB's Businessmen's Readership Survey and the Pan-Asia Nielsen Measurement Survey, of which India is a part. But he adds, "The real strengths of these media vehicles do not come through in these surveys. The clients, fortunately, are not struck by measurement surveys."
Mamatha Morvankar, general manager, MediaCom, Mumbai, says that though clients don't stress on survey data, they conduct their own qualitative research about the kind of audience reached, the results, etc.
Advertising revenue for in-flight magazines come mainly from the financial sector, automobile brands, lifestyle products, designer watches, jewellery companies, tourism and retail companies.
Morvankar says that the sudden inflow of brands from around the world have led to an increase in ads in such magazines, as their audience is there.
Above all, as Tripathi of Media Direction says, "In-flight magazines also have a competitive cost per contact in comparison to other niche magazines, but more than that of other general magazines."
Media Planners are increasingly paying attention to in-flight magazines, among other niche magazines, as an efficient option to advertise for their clients. But again, they say it depends on the category of product. Tripathi, however, cautions that the increasing clutter in these in-flight magazines may dissuade them from doing so.
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