A recent article on bbc.com wondered “can paper survive the digital age? Being web-based, you might think bbc.com would say that, as digital media revenues grow at the expense of newsstand magazine circulations.  Passenger numbers, and inflight readers, however are set to increase by over 5% every year according to IATA.  And, although you are probably reading this online, there is new evidence that supports the unique properties of the printed word.

An environment for luxury

Presented on beautiful, glossy paper, magazines are tactile, enticing objects, engaging the reader through stunning photography, aspirational branding, in-depth features and enthralling interviews.  Reading a magazine is an escape into an intimate, aspirational world that stimulates the mind and senses.  Magazines continue to offer the perfect environment for luxury retail, long copy, business editorial and glamorous branding; and even websites such as Net-a-Porter are now publishing magazines to extend their brand employing the unique properties of print.  Most airlines’ First Class cabins will feature a bespoke premium magazine reflecting the opulence of the environment, with a special focus on the most exclusive travel destinations and luxury brands, and world-class celebrity profiles.  It is no surprise that 44% of passengers actively state they look for luxury brand advertising in their inflight magazine.

Magazines are part of the travel experience

Inflight magazines, as an essential part of the glamour of flying, are a much-anticipated aspect of the travel experience.  On average 85% of passengers positively rateD the inflight magazine with 32% actively looking forward to the magazine “as part of their flight”.  21% even said they see the magazine “as part of the ticket price”.  This last comment is backed up by the fact that 97% of passengers have read the inflight magazine in the last 12 months, with 95% alone looking for destination features in the magazine.

Print makes you clever

Interestingly, it may also seem the printed word is innately more engaging as a medium, rather than reading content via digital platforms, through a Kindle or on a smartphone.  Reading print magazines, it would seem, actually makes us clever.

Psychologists have established that it is easier to learn and absorb information from the printed page, with the ability to easily turn back and gauge the length of content, whereas online enables skimming but reduces assimilation in the process, as seen in a study by the University of Virginia.
Depth reading is actually 10-30% faster on paper than on-screen, as screen-based reading is more physically taxing and less intuitive than reading on paper due to the effects of light emitted by digital devices according to a study in Scientific American.

Higher engagement leads to high effectiveness

Remembering and responding to the messages that advertisers place in inflight magazines can only benefit from the higher engagement promoted by printed magazines.  Added to this, the inflight environment itself has been seen to promote an above average mental alertness and engagement, and a mind-set seeking information and aspiration, working together with the higher engagement promoted by print - 30% having sourced a holiday or hotel from the magazine and some luxury adverts achieving up 70% recall.

Printed inflight magazines are powerfully engaging with ever more passengers as airline numbers grow, and will continue to fulfil their special and niche function in ever more interesting ways.