How digital disruption creates new publisher opportunities in the in-flight sector

Philipp J. Jacke, a specialist in media distribution, is Managing Director of Media Carrier. Here he explains how airlines are changing their editorial offering and how the imminent move from print to digital in the sector influence not only the passenger experience but also create new demands for publishers and distributors.

Under the title “The disruptive change of digital reading in the airline in-flight sector”, Philipp will be one of some 40 international speakers at FIPP Asia-Pacific taking place on 27-28 September in Singapore.

Click here to register for FIPP Asia-Pacific or contact Claire Jones or Natalie Butcher if you are interested in discussing a discounted custom package for a delegation (five or more people) to the conference.

Phillipe Jacke ()

Several delegates to FIPP Asia-Pacific will consume media as part of their passenger experience travelling to FIPP Asia-Pacific in Singapore and back. You are in the front seat, so to speak, of how media consumption and distribution in the airline sector are changing. How disruptive will these changes be and how do publishers respond to this?

There is already a dramatic change to airlines’ approach to printed editorial and this will increase in the future. Initially publishers feared these changes because they were in a comfortable position, knowing exactly what number of copies will be on board aircraft as agreed with the airline on an annual basis. So, publisher A provides X number of magazines to airline B every month. This does not really change significantly throughout the year and they can then easily project a fixed distribution number for circulation and advertising purposes.

But moving to a digital product is completely different because there is no guaranteed delivery of product. The numbers are determined by the passenger demand in downloads. This, of course, is an unpredictable number… Publishers fear this gap, yet there are those who realise that distribution opportunities in digital are much better because there are no more print – and much less distribution and logistical – cost. It means savvy publishers are and will be in a position to offer publications to almost any airline around the globe without virtually any additional cost. This creates many new opportunities.

How keen are airlines to make the move from print to digital?

It’s better for airlines to have a broader presentation of their inflight publishing offer. Media Carrier’s digital solution greatly expands the offering from merely placing an inflight magazine and catalogue in the seat pocket in front of the passenger. Lufthansa, one of our clients, can now make all of its corporate magazines available to passengers. Furthermore, because of weight restrictions, space available and other regulations there are strict directives on the number of copies of magazines and newspapers that may be placed on aircraft. The digital offering now opens up the potential to provide for the needs of a wider variety of passengers. On top of that, we can also cater for a smaller number of passengers from any specific region or country with digital on-board magazines. This largely increases the airline’s service to the passenger.

But surely this cannot happen until all aircraft are supplied with wifi connectivity?

We have solutions to provide publications to passengers even without wifi connectivity in aircraft. At the moment most airlines we work with want to provide passengers with reading material prior to entering the aircraft simply because on board connectivity is still very expensive or the infrastructure on board is not developed enough yet to download magazines and newspapers online. So we have created offline solutions. On some aircraft – like on 20 of Lufthansa’s A321 aircraft equipped with their “Lufthansa Entertainment“ offering – connectivity is created not to the internet but to an onboard mounted server providing download capabilities of specific newspapers and magazines. Other download models will allow downloads from up to three days before your flight by simply using your booking reference number. Of course downloads can also be done in the departure lounge. We have developed our own tool, called Media Box, to facilitate this.

Now that you mention Media Box … it is rather unique in the sense that it does not function in a similar way as an application.

We wanted a digital offer with the same simplicity as picking up a magazine and newspaper from a departure lounge or seat pocket. The use of an app requires an application download, asking for personal data and registration. This creates many restrictions and nobody wants to do this in the hurried environment of travel! We have opted for a web-based solution where the titles that are available are accessible simply by clicking on the titles, which are instantly downloaded to your device. No registration, no app, no need to leave personal information and no need to collect passenger data, which of course can be restricted by legislation. There are several download scenarios. In hotels – and cruise ships –it is only possible to download titles when connected to the hotel or cruise ship’s wifi. In other scenarios, like in airports the download options increase and – as already mentioned – downloads linked to a booking can be done anywhere. The number of downloads can also be linked to the status of your booking where a first or business class booking may allow for more downloads than an economy class booking, for example.

How are publishers responding to these changes?

In the early beginning most publishers were rather skeptical. But they are now waking up to the advantages of digital distribution of their products. They also realise that airlines cannot afford to carry printed copies any more. Neither can they supply specialist magazines or special language magazines physically all around the world. Digital distribution makes this possible globally. This will eventually increase the number of title downloads worldwide. At the moment there are only a limited number of print titles available to the passenger, whereas with a digital offer nearly every publisher can be represented on board and follow their readers wherever they are on the globe. Of course, there will be some publishers that will see reduced numbers in what they supply to the airline but overall there will be more players and more downloads. The journey of digital distribution has just started and future passenger behaviour remains an unknown.

Media Carrier is a relatively young company. Can you give us a brief background on why it was established?

Media Carrier is part of the MELO group, which is short for ‘media and logistics’; a 70-year old company based in Munich, Germany with a strong track-record for media distribution, logistic services, aviation services and content creation. One of MELO’s services is to provide airlines, airports and aircraft with publications over many years. However, we identified a need to present airlines, in addition to printed magazines, also with a digital offering. Media Carrier was formed five years ago to enable us to participate in the digital disruption taking place in the publishing industry. This disruption does not only affect the publisher but also the distributor. And of course we wanted to present airlines with solutions because of the positive results we could offer. So this need to create a digital offering to airlines, hotels and cruise ships started the development of Media Box.

Hear more from Philipp and other international speakers at FIPP Asia-Pacific in Singapore, taking place from 27-28 September. Click here to register or contact Claire Jones or Natalie Butcher if you are interested in discussing a discounted custom package for a delegation (five or more people) to the conference.

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