In-Flight Takes Off, Circles $1 Billion Ad Milestone

In-flight magazines, once regarded as light fare and corporate marketing shills, are gaining altitude with marketers in non-traditional categories including high-end consumer electronics, real estate, plastic surgery, and even weirder stuff like executive dating services and faux medieval pewter chess sets to a captive, well-heeled audience--so strong ad spending makes sense.

The growth is being driven by a number improvements in in-flight technology, principally better in-flight Internet connectivity, which make catalogue-style advertising more attractive, as spur-of-the-moment transactions become more secure and less troublesome, according to findings of a new report from Ink Publishing, a major publisher of in-flight magazines.

Personal televisions for passengers also promise lucrative new possibilities for direct/interactive advertising.

But whether Ink's good news means anything for the other sectors of the magazine and TV ad industry is an open question.

Inside its niche, the company's numbers look quite good. If current trends hold true, advertisers are likely to buy $1 billion worth of in-flight advertising by 2006--a good fraction of the likely total of $6.2-$6.6 billion for "outdoor" advertising in America overall in the same period. And upswings in international airline traffic--principally in Asia and Europe--would seem to offer access to the most lucrative subsets of wealthy markets overseas.



In the United States, a few other trends have been sweetening the pot. Although giants like US Air and United declare bankruptcy with tedious regularity, a proliferation of smaller regional airlines have expanded the captive audience by leaps and bounds: overall, air carriers are growing about 15 percent a year (again, according to Ink).

As the plastic-bound May 2000 issue of Good Housekeeping grows more stale in the magazine cubbyhole by the coat closet, the in-flight magazine probably has something more interesting to say--and that interest must inevitably grow.

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