Mengel Musings

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Blogs on paper at 35,000 feet March 16, 2009

Filed under: Media — amymengel @ 1:40 pm

(Mengel Musings is now at! Click Here to follow me to my new home on the web.)

I spent last weekend visiting my cousin in Pittsburgh (GREAT city, btw) and neglected to grab my book out of the pocket of my carry-on when I gate checked my bag. After about 10 minutes with the SkyMall catalog, I decided I’d had enough of virtual reality glasses, adult-sized footsy pajamas and portable neck traction devices, so I grabbed a copy of the in-flight magazine, US Airways Magazine.

usairwaysI started flipping through it and noticed that a lot of its content was pulled from blogs and other sources on the Web. A two-page business feature included excerpts from Harvard Business Review. Later in the magazine was a complete reprint of the first chapter of a forthcoming marketing book, Lynda Resnick’s Rubies in the Orchard. As I kept reading, I realized that essentially none of the magazine’s content was original. Just about the entire thing, except for one feature and some crossword puzzles, was repackaged from existing content and dropped into the magazine.

I flipped back to the front to read the editor’s letter I had initially skipped over. It turns out that the March 2009 issue of US Airways Magazine was part of a redesign to merge the “immediacy of the web with the convenience and quality of print magazines.” (Read the full letter here.) What was even more interesting this paragraph:

The great thing about magazines is — strange as it may sound — their technology. Think about it: You’re holding an amazing device. You never have to load software, protect it from viruses, reboot it, or even plug it in. And you never have to wait for a page to load. You don’t have chaff, you have editors — real people who know what you want, do the selecting for you, and check the facts. If magazines were just invented, experts would be crowing about this cool new contrivance.

The magazine now pulls most of its content from the blogosphere and presents it to passengers in an “amazing next-gen device” (aka words printed on glossy paper and glued together). Editors check the blog content for accuracy. The Web site simply says “Contributors: The experts at Harvard Business Review, bloggers in the know, and more.”

Effectively, US Airways Magazine has eliminated the need to have writers on staff, or even hire freelancers for all but one feature story a month. I’m sure most bloggers and book authors would salivate at the chance to have their content featured in this space – I admit that I read the entire excerpt from Rubies in the Orchard and will probably find the book and read the rest of it. (It’s about the strategy behind bringing POM Wonderful juice to market.)

I can’t decide if the strategy is lazy or brilliant. It’s probably some of both. And seeing as how the airline was charging for water on flights up until two weeks ago, it’s likely due to financial constraints, as well. I’m actually surprised that airlines haven’t started charging passengers for a copy of its magazine. Is the future of journalism simply fact-checking and reprinting other people’s content?

Ultimately, I think airline magazines will quickly reach irrelevance when WiFi becomes more ubiquitous on flights. Who will want to read magazines when you can check e-mail, surf the Web, chat with your Twitter friends, make calls via Skype, or watch streaming TV or movies? Especially when you can do it on laptop, iPhone, or Kindle… which actually are amazing, next-gen devices.

What do you think? Check it out at

Image: Flickr user caribb


2 Responses to “Blogs on paper at 35,000 feet”

  1. Alan Says:

    Amy, another interesting read. I always look forward to the next post. I imagine that they are not the only airline to do this. I’ll have to check it out the next time I’m on Delta. Next thing they will do is have the safety videos recorded. Oh wait, they already do that on most flights.

    As far as wifi on airplanes, as long as they have rules about needing to use headphones. Scratch that, no voice calls, period. Its bad enough on terra firma with everyone yelling into their cell phones. I once did an experiment with friends, I whispered into the cell and they had no idea I was doing that and they could hear me just fine. I was proving a point that yelling into it doesn’t help. Now imagine an airplane full of that, no thanks.

  2. amymengel Says:

    Alan – I definitely agree with you that airlines should come up with some type of plan to manage the “ego-talkers” who yammer on and on just to sound important, if indeed we do get to a point where voice calls are possible on flights. I would be in favor of some sort of policy or firewall that allows data service on plane, but no voice! Part of me is reticent about WiFi coming to the skies, as I actually kind of like being disconnected for a few hours when in flight. No urgent e-mails, no conference calls… just some quiet time to myself!

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