American Airlines is ceasing publishing their in-flight magazine. American Way was created in 1966 and became one of the most successful travel-and-leisure magazines in history.

The pandemic took a wrecking ball to the entire in-flight magazine industry. Delta stopped producing Sky magazine in April 2020. Southwest Airlines closed down their amazing magazine about the same time. 

I remember visiting the halls of Pace Communications years ago, talking to the editorial and production team that produced Southwest’s magazine. At that time, it boasted 5.5M readers per month. And these magazines were almost always very profitable for both the airlines and the production houses. Advertising was plentiful.

It seems these airlines are moving the majority of their communication to be accessed through an internet device of some kind.

I get the reasons. American said they could not make the magazine financially feasible. They also cited paper savings and the environmental impact.

Of course, this all makes sense.

But why not take the other direction? What if an airline went all-in with print. Why not zig when everyone else is zagging?

Why not zig when everyone else zags? That’s the question @JoePulizzi says all  #contententrepreneurs should ask. #creatoreconomy #entrepreneur Click To Tweet

Killing off the print publication is the sensible move. It’s the move everyone else is making. It’s the easy move.

Tilt Advice

But most content entrepreneurs who find long-term success are the ones who zig. They create a unique business (i.e., content). And they know to attract attention, they can’t do it like everybody else.

About 10 years, another business “zag” happened, but that time it was with email. Businesses were leaving email to focus on social media channels like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. But, a few media companies doubled down on email. The New York Times and Buzzfeed come to mind. Those bets have paid off and saved their business models. Now email drives their business models. Both companies have well over 50 different e-newsletters.

What if one of these airlines thought like The New York Times and Buzzfeed and looked to create the most amazing print experience on the planet? They could offer advertisers something that wasn’t being offered anywhere else? What if they made it a real take-home piece for travelers?

I don’t know if you’ve looked at the data on print engagement lately, but it’s still very high. Most magazine publishers I talk to still rave about amazing engagement reports and that those who read their print publications become some of their best customers.

If you’re like most early-stage content entrepreneurs, you’re probably bootstrapping your content business. You’re probably thinking, “But, Joe, I can’t afford to print.”

Maybe you can’t yet. But you might want to consider it for your long-term strategy.

But here’s what I really want you to think: It costs next to nothing to zig right now. 

Make sure you tilt more than just the angle of your content. Tilt your thinking to explore unique formats and platform uses to stand out and attract an audience.

Now, if you’re a middle-stage content entrepreneur, your zig might be putting additional resources into something every other content creator is dismissing. What if you rethought how you drive revenue for that initiative?

Put additional resources into something every other content creator is dismissing, advises @JoePulizzi. #contententrepreneur #creatoreconomy Click To Tweet

What if you look at the real data? In the airlines’ magazine case, people still do enjoy print, especially on an airplane. Their decision to zag is a huge missed opportunity.

Find your zig, double down, and create something truly remarkable.

Find your zig, double down, and create something truly remarkable, says @JoePulizzi. #contententrepreneur Click To Tweet

This article is inspired by the most recent episode of Content Inc. podcast. The Tilt founder Joe Pulizzi publishes a new episode every Monday. Subscribe today so you never miss those insightful five minutes.

About the author

Joe Pulizzi is the founder of The Tilt, author of seven books including Content Inc. and co-founder of speech-therapy fundraiser, The Orange Effect Foundation.