Money & Business

Friday Buzz: What SkyMall Teaches About Captive Audiences

By / Jan 23, 2015 (urban_data/Flickr)

The catalog company that has enticed passengers with in-flight shopping for 25 years just filed for bankruptcy along with its parent company, and its reason for doing so is just the latest nail in the coffin of the captive audience. Also: Making the pitch for keeping association magazines alive.

Need proof that the captive audience is dead? Check out the current status of SkyMall.

On Friday, the catalog firm and its parent company, Xhibit, announced that it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a prelude to an asset sale, citing a “crowded, rapidly evolving and intensely competitive” retail market as the driving factor behind the company’s decision.

In other words, people looking to read stuff on planes aren’t stuck with a catalog, thanks to the internet.

“With the increased use of electronic devices on planes, fewer people browsed the SkyMall in-flight catalog,” acting SkyMall CEO and Xhibit CFO Scott Wiley said in court papers acquired by The Wall Street Journal.

The news is particularly painful because SkyMall is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

There might be some significant lessons for associations to gain from this news—particularly the fact that it’s important to focus on both a digital and a print presence. The situation also shows that, in building content, it’s more important these days to be unique and essential than focused on the fact that you’re the only game in town.

That said, now’s a good time to buy a Night Glow Toilet Seat.

Stats of the Day

Does the news about SkyMall hurt the case for publishing an association magazine? It’s not clear, but it’s nonetheless worth considering Association Media and Publishing’s recent reader survey that delved into how challenging it is to make the case for maintaining an association magazine. While 44 percent of respondents said it’s not hard at all, more concerning might be the 25 percent of respondents who constantly have to defend their publications’ value to their bosses. Think that number will grow? (ht @AssnMediaPub)

Other Links of Note

Struggling to put passive-aggressive folks in their place? The science blog io9 provides a useful analysis of what causes passive-aggressive people to act the way they do—and how you can recognize it.

Don’t just support your association’s technology offerings, IT directors. Learn to lead the way, argues DelCor’s Tobin Conley.

Metaphor matters: Conferences That Work author Adrian Segar talks up the value of using metaphors in learning, and how that translates to event design.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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