Flying High with Magazines for Miles Programs

It’s 11:53 PM on the last day that your frequent flyer miles are valid. You have seven minutes to wisely invest those miles before they are gone forever. What do you do?

Well, you could book a hastily-assembled tour of the North Pole, all you can eat ice-cubes included, or visit your mother-in-law out in Nebraska and ponder the horizon. Another option now available to many frequent flyers is to subscribe to some of your favorite magazines using those miles, no ice-goggles or earplugs required. But that’s your business…

Currently, the majority of magazines offered through these programs are general market: “For some reason, we don’t have as many Spanish-language magazines participating in our Magazines for Miles program as some of our other programs,” says Laurence Sheinman, vice-president of Stamford-based Synapse, a customer acquisition and management company.  However, there are a few that participate, and one may currently subscribe to Hispanic publications like People en Español or Latina, and the list of Hispanic offerings is bound to grow in the coming years. For Hispanic titles, this could be a great opportunity to capitalize on a space that is thus far under-utilized by the Hispanic market.

Why Subscription for Miles work for:



Ø      High renewal rate

Ø      Can guarantee Advertisers subscribers

Ø      Subscribers count toward paid Circ.




Ø      Airplane readers a “captive” audience

Ø      Airplane readers more affluent

Ø      Higher Ad-response than general

The benefits for magazines choosing to take part in these programs are obvious. For one thing, it boosts circulation rates, so they are subsequently able to charge advertisers more. On the audit sheet, airline miles subscribers are listed as sponsored/paid subscribers. Additionally, many of these types of subscribers elect to continue their subscriptions under regular terms once their airline miles subscription has expired.

Additionally, research conducted by McPheters & Company Media Consulting  indicates that these types of subscribers are higher quality readers that are more affluent, with the median household income measuring at $77,676; more educated, with 41% or more having completed college or more; and more likely to be in managerial positions.
Jose Pérez, consumer marketing director for People en Español, said this: “For our magazine, which has very few frequent flyers using miles for subscriptions, the retention rates are quite high, but that could be a function of how few of these there are.  I have no way of knowing if this is true for a title where such efforts are a larger proportion of total subscriptions, but in my experience to date, the names are high quality and do renew at solid levels,” said Pérez, adding that actual renewal rates are proprietary.
One reason People en Español has so few of these types of subscribers is because for the last 18 months, they have chosen not to participate in this type of program. Pérez tells Portada that even though the average miles redeemer often has more desirable subscriber characteristics (Income, advertisement response) than the average subscriber, advertisers are sometimes wary of these subscribers because they have not paid any money out-of-pocket for what they signed up for.

Synapse is a company that specializes in Subscription for Miles programs, among others. With this program, the amount of miles one spends per subscription varies on the magazine, and how much money the subscription costs. It works with virtually all of the major airlines in offering over 60 titles to its readers. According to Laurence Sheinman, a vice president at Synapse, they do not segment their offerings according to flight destinations or customer demographics. “We are more interested in casting a fairly broad net,” says Laurence. “Synapse has had the program in place for over ten years, helping airlines to burn a total of 50 billion miles.”

Ruth Gaviria, publisher and executive director of Meredith Hispanic Ventures, notes the sense of such a sweeping approach to title offerings: “Think of the reader. Think of the passion-point. In a country where the media choices are becoming more segmented because the consumer is the one dictating what content they want, it is increasingly important to connect with them where their passions lie, and if you are able to connect with that consumer with even one title, it doesn’t matter what other titles are on that list. The connection has been made.” Gaviria adds that she would be perfectly willing to participate in a Subscription for Miles program if it provided engaged readers: “Where you get the reader is not important; what is important is whether the content you are offering is in line with that reader’s interests.”