The Economics of SkyMall

By Norman Chan

Apparently 70% of airplane passengers read the catalogue.

Shopping blog Priceonomics reports on the business of SkyMall, and how the famed airplane catalogue makes money. Turns out that when SkyMall was founded in 1989, its founders envisioned airplane passengers ordering goods from the flight and picking up those items at the terminal gate when the plane landed. That commerce model didn't work out, so the company is now more of an advertising front for retailers who pay up to $130,000 plus a transaction share to place a full-page ad in the "magazine". The rest of the story is about SkyMall's recent business dealings with a dubious partner, but the research about SkyMall's successes is fascinating. This also remains my favorite SkyMall cover of all time.