#RIPSkymall (Photo: Leah Ginsberg)
SkyMall magazine, the goofy in-flight shopping catalog that people loved to hate — that of the $350 robot litterbox, the $80 USB-charging paper towel stand, and the $16,000 sauna pod — had to file for bankruptcy this past January; the hashtag #RIPSkymall highlights some of the best of the worst items.
But never fear — Scott Jordan, CEO of ScotteVest (and former SkyMall advertiser), is in negotiations to revive the SkyMall brand and the magazine on airplanes using a new core business model: “We’re going to include items in the magazine that people actually want to buy,” he told Yahoo Travel in an interview.
Apparently, publishing a magazine full of stuff for people to laugh at is not a viable business plan.
Jim Louderback, a former editor in chief of PC Magazine, will co-manage the relaunch. He plans to transform the new SkyMall: “We’d not only include listings for, say, noise-canceling headphones, but also an article explaining how the technology actually works,” he said. “We’re going to make it an entertaining experience, a curated shopping journey targeted at real travelers and their interests.” Edu-shopping-tainment, if you will.
Old SkyMall: $80 USB-charging paper towel stand. (Photo: SkyMall.com)
Before you mourn the wacky SkyMall, some crazy products will still be in the magazine. “We want the readers to continue to have the experience of the unexpected, of wonder, of delight,” Louderback explained, “so you’ll be seeing stuff like the next pet rock, the new fake Google Glass-type gag, whatever may tap into that month’s zeitgeist,” but it’ll be a small part of the magazine, sort of comic relief along with the real items.
And what is lost in comic relief will be made up for in usefulness and cool technology. The new magazine concept will utilize the latest advances in supply-chain solutions to persuade people on a flight to make the purchases. “Say you want to buy a digital camera to use on your trip. The partnerships and technology are there to have it delivered to your hotel the next day after you arrive,” explained Jordan. And there’s no need to wait even that long to get ready for your new camera: “The magazine could include a link to an online photography course to purchase during the flight, so you’re an expert on the camera and some new techniques by the time you land.”
New SkyMall: Pizza waiting for you in your hotel room? We’re in! (Photo: Thinkstock)
And imagine reading an article on the newest, hippest, tastiest pizzeria in New York City on your flight to JFK, and then being able to order a large pepperoni-mushroom and have it waiting warm in your hotel room upon arrival. “The possibilities really are almost limitless — it’ll be up to the creativity of our team, our partners, and of reader requests.” One spinoff that Jordan mentioned could be a SkyMall store in airports, or at minimum a partnership with Brookstone and other retailers, at which you could pick up your product immediately after the flight.
The new SkyMall’s offerings will include not only typical travel gear — an extra jacket for your hiking trip, a spare smartphone charger — but also travel options such as tours, hotel rooms, even cruises. There will be a page for reviews of new apps and a discounted code to purchase them. “One of the keys of the new business will be that readers can get better deals ordering products through the magazine than directly at the manufacturer or at an Amazon.com,” said Jordan, who feels that his extensive experience in e-commerce as CEO of ScotteVest will help him turn these margins into a winning business model. ”There will be geolocating tags, maybe connected to the boarding pass, which will only be usable within a few hours of the flight. It’s something that will help people to actually look forward to getting on a plane — ‘I wonder what I can buy in the catalog this time.’”
But even with new products and compelling copy in the magazine, can the new concept work in an age when you don’t have the same captive audience? Will anyone read hard-copy magazines on a flight with available Wi-Fi, Kindles, and smartphone games? Louderback is convinced that passengers will still pick up a copy. “People still want the experience of paging through an actual magazine; they crave that physical interaction. The products and copy and photos will be something you’ll want to point out and share with friends or family, or even to start a conversation with a random seatmate.”
Assuming that things go well in the negotiations this March (with creditors, product partners, and the airlines), expect to see the newly relaunched SkyMall take flight this June. And just pray that it will still be offering that glow-in-the-dark toilet seat.
The Top 10 Useless Items You’ll Miss From SkyMall Magazine (Video)