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Arab News Exclusive: British publisher Ink flying high with Etihad magazine deal

The first issue, which appears in March.
Simon Kurs, the editor of the magazine.

LONDON: The UK-headquartered publisher Ink has clinched a deal to produce the inflight magazine for Etihad Airways, saying it will be “reimagined from the ground up.”
The publisher also plans to open an office in Abu Dhabi, where the airline is based, and said it was not concerned about the impact of falling advertising revenues in the region.
Ink — which also has offices in Singapore, Miami, New York and Sau Paulo — told Arab News that the first edition of the rebranded Atlas magazine will be on board Etihad planes from March 1.
It was previously known as Etihad Inflight when it was produced by rival publisher ITP, which is based in Dubai.
Simon Kurs, the new editor, said the magazine will feature lifestyle and travel features, and be “accessible” to the reader.
Features in the first edition include a travel story about Goa and a photo-based feature about Manchester City football ground, which is sponsored by Etihad. Ink will also produce digital content for Etihad, including one bespoke branded video a month.
Design features include graphical compass points and coordinates of various locations, in line with the magazine’s name.
“The name says it all really. It’s an airline with a global reach and a global perspective on things, and that’s what we wanted (to reflect),” Kurs said.
Kurs previously edited the EasyJet Traveler magazine, also part of Ink, and before that worked at publications including The Sunday Times, Shortlist magazine and Arena.
Magazines used as a reference in creating Atlas included Wallpaper, Conde Nast Traveler and Monocle, the editor said.
But creating the new title was not without its pressures, with Kurs pointing to the several international awards that Etihad has won.
“We’ve got the world’s best airline here — we need to create the world’s best inflight magazine. So no pressure there… But I think actually we delivered something pretty close to that, and it’s something that we’re really happy with creatively.”
Michael Keating, joint CEO of Ink, said the magazine has “a very premium feel.”
“We’ve changed absolutely everything about the title. We’ve reimagined it from the ground up,” he said from Ink’s London offices.
The contract win comes after Ink won another Gulf deal to produce Qatar Airways’ monthly in-flight magazine Oryx, to appear onboard from Jan. 1.
Ink now publishes 31 magazines, mostly for airlines, and its other recent wins include producing a title for Hong Kong Airlines.
The company gets its revenues from advertising, after paying its airline and other travel-operator partners a slice of the takings.
Keating said Ink sells ads in about 100 territories, but he expects around 30 to 40 percent of the bookings for Atlas magazine to come from the local region.
He said he was not overly concerned over the gloomy outlook for the Middle East advertising market this year.
Elie Khouri, chief executive of the Omnicom Media Group in MENA, earlier told Arab News that investments in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) advertising fell by 10 percent in 2016, and expects a similar drop this year.
But Keating said that luxury travel media was to a certain extent insulated from this.
“I think we are less exposed, and I think the sector that we’re in, to a certain extent, bucks the trend… As a company we have been through 9/11, SARS, volcanic ash, and other tragic incidents with certain carriers. And the market continues to grow,” he said.
The media executive also shrugged off the emergence of Internet on many flights, saying he didn’t see a big threat to Ink’s still largely print-orientated business.
“You can do multiple things,” he said. “TV didn’t kill radio, inflight entertainment didn’t kill the inflight magazine.”