Concluding my series of blogs on Reinventing Travel Media, I uncover what new technology and social media mean for the future of travel media. If you haven’t read Part 1 or Part 2 yet, I recommend you read them first.

Don’t lose sight of the real people

As the tech and media world becomes obsessed with digital numbers and big data, airlines – in their analog ways – silently noticed that they have actual real people. And lots of them. In fact, lots and lots of them and they are just waiting for something to do.

I founded a media company 20 years ago and now, with our clients, we are getting in front of a global audience of 677 million real passengers, with real eyeballs, real wallets, and real spending power.

But American Airlines alone today will have half a million people on their planes. That means in 1 year alone American Airlines carries the population of UK, France and Italy put together.

Despite these huge analogue numbers, gone are the days of the faceless organization delivering one-way communications.

Now we can get more personal and interactive

As we all interact with one another on a minute-to-minute and second-to-second basis posting, liking, sharing, blogging and displaying, we essentially announce, proclaim and promote our personalities: I like this, I do this, I go there and I’ve got this.

Travel media is no different.

The travel world has been turned upside down by TripAdvisorBooking.comExpediaTwitter, Facebook and Flight Tracker. Long distance has been replaced by immediate and short personal interactions.

Here is an interesting fact: American Airlines now has a staff of 21 in the social media team made up of customer service and marketing departments. They make sure that your questions are answered 24 hours a day. They now respond to around 6000 tweets a week (that’s 240 per hour).

Making the most of new opportunities to engage 

So it seems that all that has happened is that there is a new quicker channel of delivery and it is up to us – the media companies to join those dots for the traveller.

In the last year we added some hashtags to our magazines and now people on their vacations are sending pictures back to us the magazine. So “Janet” and “John” have such a connection with the magazine, the moment they have a cool pic they send it back to the magazine in hope we might publish it or win some free flights.

As the content is now available digitally and our magazine brands are an integrated part of that social media two-way conversation. Posting pictures, liking articles, travellers’ commenting on their experiences. For example, The Foo Fighters were on the cover of the American Way and we launched with a video showing the magazines coming off the printing press – and it got near on 750,000 views on social media. For a printing press! It’s great!

So we are used to people wanting their social media immediately, interactive, and for short bursts. But that just isn’t the case on a large number of flights today.

But let’s not forget what people want – and what still works 

The plane is travel media in its best location. A recent report showed that 3 of the top 6 most affluent (readership) magazines in the USA were inflight and those people still want a lean back experience; relax, read, digest and enjoy the smooth flight.

So what we are finding through this conversation is that many of the same travel media principles and habits of 1966 are still going to be true in 2015 and beyond.

The plane is still one of the most unique places for media. 80% of passengers read the magazine – and a 20-minute read, is an AVERAGE. These figures are eye watering for the advertiser of today. And the repeat rate of our annual clients is 91%, this flies in the face of the attrition from print advertisers. And as a result, we are seeing that the worlds most recognized brands of watches, cars (and more recently technology and telecommunications companies) are climbing on board. Gone are the days of low quality adverts. It’s now a high quality experience.

The future will take the best of today, but make it faster and more interactive 

So let me finish up now and tell you: Paper in airplanes is not going to disappear anytime soon. But it will change – it is going to become of a higher quality (a trend that we at Ink have pioneered) and more people are going to access that “paper” in a digital form. As that digital passenger experience happens, the interactions will just get quicker and you will, via your tablet or smartphone, be able to order/enquire/buy off of that “page” with direct links to advertisers.

Some truths will always remain – the plane will still be flying at 500 mph and at 34, 000 ft, that’s fairly certain. On board, you as a passenger will be consuming more content in a faster and more interactive way. It could be through a paper magazine, but it could just as easily be through your tablet or phone. Most likely, in today’s ‘multi-screen’ world, you’ll be using both.

To find out more about our travel media opportunities head over to our website. Feel free to view and share the Slideshare presentation below.