MEDIA PROFILE: Frequent Flyer plots a new editorial course for its relaunch

Much like many of the airlines it covers, Frequent Flyer is recreating itself with a new look, which includes themed issues, new sections, and a receptive attitude toward PR pitches.

Much like many of the airlines it covers, Frequent Flyer is recreating itself with a new look, which includes themed issues, new sections, and a receptive attitude toward PR pitches.

Frequent Flyer began publishing in 1979 aiming to be the primary source that travelers could use to make sense out of airline deregulation. But as the airline industry changed, Frequent Flyer's parent company, OAG Worldwide, went through many changes as well. By June 2000, the title went online to keep up with an exploding travel marketplace. At the time, OAG was part of massive Anglo-Dutch publisher Reed Elsevier. In 2001, Reed was announcing plans to divest itself of OAG. A management-led buyout made OAG Worldwide an independent company last year. As it sought to reestablish its corporate identity, OAG hired Slack Barshinger, a Chicago integrated marketing communications firm, to raise its profile. OAG's new ownership created two divisions - OAG Data to handle flight information and OAG Publishing. One of the first things the new publishing group did was relaunch Frequent Flyer. Once a standalone magazine, Frequent Flyer has, since last September, become a 16-page regular insert in OAG's Executive Flight Guide, a book-sized publication that lists airline flights in North America. The guide itself was a redesign of OAG's Pocket Flight Guide, once a mainstay of corporate travelers. The magazine is also being inserted into desktop versions of flight schedules marketed to corporate travel planners. While its format has changed, Frequent Flyer's new staff is trying to tell travel and tourism PR people that the publication is back, and again wants to be a "must-read" for frequent travelers. "Frequent Flyer has always given the reader something they didn't know or get elsewhere," says publisher Charlene Seoane. "For most of its first 20 years, it was the only title of its type around." Agnes Huff, head of Agnes Huff Communications Group in LA, spent years working for airlines before starting her own PR firm, so she's long been familiar with Frequent Flyer. She agrees with Seoane that it occupies a unique niche among travel publications. While airline in-flight magazines are available to people already traveling, Frequent Flyer reaches people as they formulate travel decisions, making it a sought-after target for pitching travel stories, Huff explains. "They're one of the target publications to pitch because they have a good circulation in the audience clients want to reach," she says. Seoane hopes to keep her 250,000 readers coming back with various new features to the relaunched publication. The new Frequent Flyer already has done a themed issue on mobile electronic gadgets. Themed issues will become a regular part of its editorial plans. It also wants to feature guest articles that appeal to readers. "We're looking for influential people in business and the travel industry talking about key industry issues and regulations," says Seoane. The magazine plans regional profiles on various parts of the US, looking at route and service changes, airport changes, lodging, and other issues that would interest its readers. Regular features in the magazine include "On the Road With," a profile of frequent flyers and how they prefer to travel. Airport and destination profiles will be solicited from people familiar with various locales. Another feature will be called "Guilty Pleasures." It will look at "what people do on the road that they wouldn't do at home," says Seoane. She also plans to expand coverage of issues that impact women travelers, looking at safety and security topics, as well as profiling travel suppliers who cater to women. Fitness and lifestyle stories will fill the magazine's pages in the summer months. Top 10 lists on various travel topics are also planned. Articles in the magazine will appear on the website. An e-mail newsletter is also part of the publishing group. Bundling the magazine with the flight guide is smart, says Jean Dickinson, a VP with Hill & Knowlton, LA. "Uniting two very credible products is brilliant," she says. "Frequent Flyer is read by travel agents. It's got as lot of credibility." Dickinson spent seven-and-a-half years working with travel clients in Hawaii, and frequently pitched the old Frequent Flyer. "Their editorial coverage was fairly broad," she recalls. The new version will rely on freelance writers, so the best way to pitch stories is by e-mailing managing editor Lisa Davis, says Seoane. Lead time for issues is about six weeks, and the magazine expects to put an editorial calendar on its site in the near future, she adds. The new Frequent Flyer is getting travel industry attention. "I find it to be widely read," notes Heather Kirk, MD of Media Kitty, a service that brings together PR people and travel writers. "They seem very responsible, professional, and receptive to ideas." That should be music to the ears of PR people with travel clients. ----- Frequent Flyer Address 3025 Highland Parkway, Ste. 200, Downers Grove, IL 60515 Tel (630) 515-5300 Web E-mail Publisher Charlene Seoane Editor Lisa Davis

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