Waypoints

Meeting readers where they are

June 1, 2012

Tom HainesOf all the technological changes that have impacted our lives over the past decade or so, the most dramatic have been in the way we consume information. The Internet really has changed everything. In their uplifting book Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think, Peter H. Diamandis (founder of the X Prize Foundation) and scientist Steven Kotler point out that technology has the potential to bring knowledge once available only to a few to the entire world. No longer must you be able to visit a physical library or own a set of encyclopedias to access information. With a smartphone and data network, you can access such information anywhere.

The mantra among media experts these days is to “meet the readers where they are.” To that end, we have focused in recent years on introducing and growing many electronic media properties across a host of platforms. Today, you can reach AOPA content in about any conceivable way, any day, any hour. Fifteen years ago we had one monthly magazine and a website. Today, we have two monthly magazines, both available in interactive digital formats via the Web and apps; multiple websites; two weekly email newsletters; a daily email newsletter; a video channel; numerous blogs; online flight planner; online weather; and a host of other digital offerings, including the just-released FlyQ flight planning app for the iPhone. Other versions of FlyQ will be out this summer—and that’s only the beginning of our plans for that platform. You’ll find us on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites.

Anchoring all of these media properties is the magazine that you are holding (or viewing on screen). At 54 years old, AOPA Pilot is the association’s oldest and most valued media property. While the digital media get lots of attention, survey after survey shows that Pilot is still the number one reason most of you join the association. We’ve won dozens of awards over the years for our content, design, and photography. Our stable of aviation writers is the largest and most experienced in the business. Our circulation is well more than 50 percent larger than the nearest aviation publication anywhere in the world. While other aviation magazines have seen dramatic declines in their circulation, ours has grown for years—even in the face of a declining pilot population. Only in the past couple of years have we seen a flattening of that growth—partly as a result of giving readers so many other ways to access our content.

Some want to predict the decline of the monthly magazine, but we see no indication that AOPA members are ready to abandon their magazine. In fact, we see this magazine as the cornerstone of all of our media properties for the foreseeable future. Part of the reason your magazine looks different this month is because of that vision. Our redesign strategy for AOPA Pilot is to showcase the great storytelling and mind-blowing aviation photos we’re known for, and also help you understand what is available across all of our media channels.

Look for highlights from our blogs, social networking sites, and video channels throughout the magazine. The crisp new design reorganizes the issue only slightly, grouping intriguing shorter aviation stories in the larger Pilot Briefing section up front. We’ve long ago abandoned the notion that a monthly magazine can carry a “news” section, especially when we deliver news to you daily through Aviation eBrief and weekly through AOPA ePilot. Pilot Briefing builds on those news stories, offering more insights and analysis. The section highlights the issues facing GA and what AOPA is doing to address those issues. The new Membership News and Notes section showcases the association’s work, products, and services and the experts who make it all possible.

Throughout, we have strived to improve readability, including the introduction of new paper. While subtle, the new sheet is whiter—further showcasing our beautiful photos and improving the crispness of the type. While some publishers have chosen to go to a larger physical size for their magazines, we believe the current size is easier to handle and more comfortable to hold. And it fits neatly in your flight bag for reading at the FBO between flight legs. When you’re finished, feel free to leave it at the FBO for others to enjoy.

As with all of our media properties, we’re never “done.” Each new issue is a chance to improve—whether it’s hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly. As always, we’re anxious for your feedback and comments. Some of you will receive emails from us with links to online surveys, as we continue to strive for improvement. I encourage you to take the time to complete the surveys. Email us at pilot@aopa.org with your thoughts and ideas. I look forward to meeting you wherever you are.

E-mail the author at thomas.haines@aopa.org; follow on Twitter: tomhaines29.

Thomas B. Haines

Thomas B Haines | Editor in Chief, AOPA

AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines joined AOPA in 1988. He owns and flies a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza. Since soloing at 16 and earning a private pilot certificate at 17, he has flown more than 100 models of general aviation airplanes.