Editor-in-chief Sarah Elbert shares how Sky has taken off in the 10 years since MSP‑C began publishing Delta’s inflight magazine.
The April 2019 issue of Sky marks 10 years since MSP-C began publishing Delta Air Lines' inflight magazine—and those of us who were on that original team can hardly believe how the years have flown by. At least, I can’t. (There’s simply no way I’m 10 years older than I was when that first issue with Heidi Klum holding a globe hit the planes.)
We started with the idea that the new Sky should be a city magazine for the world. With aspirational and service-oriented travel stories, yes, but also short, pithy lifestyle items that would grab readers’ attention. We wanted it to be fun, informative and sticky. We’d feature content about business trends and innovators that would interest everyone from frequent business travelers to those who were headed to Cabo on spring break. We wanted to challenge rather than underestimate our readers. And we pitched the idea of putting high-profile celebrities and business notables on the cover.
Learning the Skills of Celebrity Wrangling
Did we know how to secure Serena Williams and Robert De Niro and Jennifer Lawrence for our cover? Not really. Our company had many areas of content expertise—but celebrity wrangling (an art and a science in and of itself) was not necessarily in our wheelhouse. But we figured it out. And one of the ways to get something done, as any good manager knows, is to delegate. So we enlisted the help of the pros at the LA/New York firm SHO + Co., who have been our longtime partners in reaching out to buzzy talent and world-class CEOs and managing the logistics of interviews and photo shoots. They’re pretty rad.
Since that first issue, we’ve gone through various iterations of Sky. We’ve featured A-list icons, hot up-and-comers, longstanding CEOs and even Kermit the Frog on the cover. And while some of the members of our staff have changed, we are lucky enough to have had very little turnover and a constantly growing stable of talented writers. Not to mention clients at Delta who understand the value of quality content marketing: heavy on the content, subtle in the marketing.
Content Marketing That Engages Readers
The strategy has worked: Our readership has gone from 3.9 million readers a month, when we began publishing Sky after Delta’s merger with Northwest Airlines, to 6.3 million readers a month today. It’s a number we’re very proud of, since there hasn’t been a big increase in the number of fliers and people have even more things to distract them while they fly—free inflight entertainment, Wi-Fi in the air and the ability to use your phone (in airplane mode) for the duration of the flight. And 10 years later, we’ve had some amazing personalities on our cover, from President Barack Obama and Constance Wu to Steve Carell and Oprah.
Publishing an inflight magazine is unique in that we, as editors, occasionally get to observe people reading the publication when we fly. And it’s a reminder that truly engaging content is that which catches a reader’s eye and keeps them reading and exploring—and maybe even inspires them to book that trip to Shanghai they’ve been putting off for years.
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