Will Gogo Internet Kill The Magazine Business For Good?

I’ve often said (and occasionally tweeted) that Gogo internet, the only inflight wifi option on most major American carriers, is either the best thing ever or the worst thing ever, depending on how I’m feeling about the mercurial service is behaving at that very moment. I signed up for Gogo a long time ago, almost at the very beginning of the company’s existence, so I pay a little less per month than some latecomers, but it’s a fee I very begrudgingly pay every single month. It’s a necessary evil—during the five hours of time time that I’m taking a flight from Atlanta to Seattle, my entire industry might change (and often does). I literally cannot afford to be disconnected from email or text that long.

More often than not, however, over the years that I’ve forked over my loot, the service has left me feeling more frustrated than satisfied. Slow connection speeds, spotty service, entire flights with no service whatsoever, flight attendants who have no idea how to reset a router…it’s enough to drive a man to drink. (Luckily, I’m normally in First so the drinks are free.) But since Gogo is the only option for inflight wifi, they can charge whatever the hell they want, and I’ll still pay it. There are times, however, when the service is so poor, that I’m very glad that I’ve packed my last issue of Road & Track to help me pass the time. Plus, I can’t connect until the plane goes over 10,000 feet, and I lose service when the plane goes under 10K, so there’s at least 20-30 minutes of flying time where I have no service, so it’s nice to catch up on my reading during those times, as well.

And I’m not the only one. In fact, the number one sales revenue channel for magazines in 2017 is not subscriptions, but airports. Magazines give away subscriptions. But at the airport, a glossy mag still runs anywhere from six to ten bucks, and people line up to buy them at the newsstands.

However, that may change soon.

Gogo has partnered with Delta to provide free messaging inflight on iMessage, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp. T-Mobile customers get free messaging on all Gogo flights. Rates for a single flight’s worth of Gogo start at around $4.95. Who cares, though, right, because the service still sucks.

Well, not so much. I recently experienced Gogo’s new, high-speed, gate-to-gate service on a Delta flight. I can connect to Gogo as soon as I sit down—no more waiting 30-40 minutes between boarding and getting over 10,000 feet for the service to work. It’s also significantly faster, and I experienced no interruptions in service. I’ve never been able to upload photos to WordPress or send picture  messages on Gogo. On the new service, I was able to do both easily.

Delta has committed to rolling out this service to its entire fleet as soon as possible, even the CRJ-700 and CRJ-900 commuter jets. Once this happens, and passengers can pay a mere $4.95 to connect their tablets or extra-huge iPhone XX PLUS PLUS to fast, reliable data, who’s going to keep buying magazines? And if the glossy mags aren’t selling, who’s going to pay the bloated editorial staffs? Will magazines go back to actually charging the prices on the cover for subscriptions?

Or will this be the final nail in the coffin?



18 Replies to “Will Gogo Internet Kill The Magazine Business For Good?”

  1. VoGo

    Upgraded GoGo is an unfortunate development. Even when I use GoGo, I pretend to be offline, so I am not constantly harassed by coworkers. My most valued and productive time professionally has been on planes, precisely because I am not connected.

    As far as magazines go, the print version have been dead to me for over a decade. I can’t recall buying a physical magazine or newspaper since the turn of the century. Outside of the airport, there is no place within 10 miles of me where I could buy a physical magazine.

    I don’t miss buggy whips and I don’t lose much sleep worrying about their manufacturers.

    • Acd

      If your demeanor at work is anything like it is when you post here your coworkers probably appreciate the break as well.

  2. John C.

    It is amazing the magazines have made it this long. Unless they can be the hobby of some plutocrat. That goes for print or online. I don’t see any remaining cash cows that can still support bloated high brow staffs and fancy New York digs. All that is left is kneeling before Bezos or Carlos Slim. Interesting how many of the perfumed princes of our upper class are so willing to do that.

  3. ScottS

    A few magazines like R&T with a focus on quality writing and less emphasis on stats and numbers can survive, but they need to be careful of making the content available online before the hard copy is available. It is disappointing for example to read the PCOTY articles online before getting my December issue in the mail.

    The temptation to produce stupid videos should be avoided at all cost. Sam Smith and Travis Okulski are highly credible at the keyboard and produce quality content. What they clearly are not is actors. With the video camera running these two masters of prose instantly turn into a pair of fools with a Special Ed vocabulary. If a magazine wants to make movies they need to hire actors and give them a proper script. Otherwise, it’s going to be “Hellow Johnny Lieberman and off in the ditch for the Roadkill”. I can’t understand why people with a real talent for something are so eager to make fools of themselves trying to do something they suck at? I’m confident that you and Jack have the good sense to know where your strengths lie. It is great writing that will keep a few quality publications alive and the Baruth brothers have a significant role to play in the survival of the species.

    • rwb

      For what it’s worth, as someone who’s tried to be on camera before, I have to give some credit where due to the Roadkill/MT folks for being able to do what they do.

      While a lot of MT video content is straight pap for children, producing content that so many people want to consume isn’t an accident, and not coming off serial-killer awkward on your 7th or 18th take of an introductory scene actually requires some talent. They’re ugly, and it’s not high art, but I’m not sure what you expect. They’ve committed, at least.

      I do agree on Smith and Okulski; at least Sam Smith is allowed to write excellent long-form articles, while Travis seems to be forced to aggregate Youtube links at gunpoint, from what I see online.

    • Jack Baruth

      They are being forced to do it.

      Our imperial leadership sees the buffoons at Motor Trend, out there losing money on crap that panders to morons, and they get very jealous, the same way unimaginative women can become almost violent over their neighbor’s possession of a new Coach purse.

      • ScottS

        “They are being forced to do it.”

        That is a harsh sentence indeed!

        I’m not personally beating up on Smith and Okulski, but on video, they come off as something much different from the persona built up in one’s mind based on their writing. The management is doing them a disservice by forcing them into this role. The first rule of business is knowing what business you are in.

  4. tmkreutzer

    Last month, for the first time in years, I subscribe to two print magazines – Reader’s Digest and a history magazine. The reason is simple, I want these laying around the house for the kids to pick up. My kids are never going to read any sort of print journalism on line – not with YouTube, Roblox and any number of other stupid things grabbing their attention. But during the week, when computers are banned and the TV is not tuned to the Cartoon Network, magazines and books are a good option.

    There are few things in life as satisfying as hearing your 11 year old ask when the next Reader’s Digest is set to arrive.

  5. -Nate

    Thom ;

    That’s a great idea .

    Over the strenuous objections of SWMBO I created a book shelf for our Foster boys, some actually read the books .


  6. Spud Boy

    I’m having a hard time believing the auto industry changes much during a five hour cross-country flight.

    We get it, you fly first class. You could have just said that. It’s only four words.

    • Bark M Post author

      I don’t sell cars. I sell advertising. And yes, quite often a co-op requirement changes, or an OEM stairstep program changes, or a huge customer, like an AutoNation or Sonic, makes a directional shift.

      That happens whether I’m in First or not, my friend.

      • -Nate

        I’ve only flown first class twice that I can recall .

        Since any other seating these days is Cattle Car misery, I’ve decided not to fly as I cannot afford first class. besides, I like driving more, I get to see America and meet many new people .

        This reminds me : I have to go buy another big bag o’ books from my local library ~ I buy so many used books they let me fill up any bag for $1.50 ~ sweet ! I have a HUGE re useable shopping bag that lasts me about a month, I’m a voracious print reader .


  7. Kenny

    I still like print car magazines and subscribe to the main three even though I never get on planes. I subscribed specifically to give myself reading material that would wean me off my electronic device addictions. I like the feel of reading on paper, it’s easier on the eyes and I’m less likely to get diverted down an Internet rabbit hole of links, comments, new tabs and social media. Of course, first I have to tear myself away from my phone long enough to pick up the magazine, but when I do, I’m glad I did.

  8. Mark D. Stroyer

    Magazine subscriptions amounting to charity has been one of the only ways I’ve been able to consume quality writing of any kind. The internet is a trash compactor.

    And is it only my cynical young eyes being done with technology, or is reading magazines or any other mixed media on an iPad sheer exhausting frustration?

    • Jack Baruth

      There’s a lot of science behind the idea that reading a backlit screen is far harder on the eyes than looking at a paper page.

  9. rpn453

    I hope not. I still prefer reading a paper page than a screen, even if I spend more time on the latter now.

    Due to unfortunate circumstances I’ve had quite a few hours to kill just sitting around recently. It gave me a new appreciation for my magazines (C&D and R&T), and also made me dread the possibility that I’ll ever have to spend any significant time using the internet with a phone or tablet rather than my desktop or laptop.


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