Ray Orion-Jones, North American editorial director for Ink Global, spends much of his time in his Brooklyn DUMBO office in a state of transport, imagining himself as an air-bound passenger, the seat pocket in front of him, a periodical peeking above its lip.
It is a brochure? Or is it a magazine? Will it sell products, or tickets? Or will it inspire?
“I think it’s a problem when passengers pick up a magazine and it’s shouting, ‘Buy me! Buy me!’”, says Jones, who oversees three in-flights for the U.K-based Ink Global. “That’s not going to encourage them to spend a lot of time in the magazine, and that isn’t good for any of us. But with a good sticky product, we can get them to spend 20 or 30 minutes.”
“We try to make genuinely groundbreaking, award-winning editorial that’s as good as you find in any premium magazine on the newsstand.”
But, really, how?
“I like for clients to be involved. It’s always a team endeavor, and we’re always touching base with them to make sure we’re helping reach their goals. For an airline, we’re interested in what geographic regions they might want to promote at different times of the year—some months are better for building interest in business travel, and some are good for family travel. We want to make sure we’re in lockstep with brand guidelines.”
We asked Orion-Jones to show us how he makes the editorial sausage.
Client: AirTran Airways
Product: Go Magazine
Promoting their routes and booking tickets.
Bake into editorial the ease of travel. “How they get you from one point to another, for a low cost,” says Ray Orion-Jones. “So it’s just a jump on the plane on a Friday to get to an away game for your college football team.”
“Travel magazine stories about small fishing villages aren’t too unusual, but what we’ve done with this piece in Go—and what I hope will keep our readers interested—is we really played with the structure of the fishing tale. We sent down two writers, who happen to be friends. Amanda wrote the story, and because the archetypal fish tale has a lot of exaggeration in it, it’s given from her point of view, and she’s slightly generous with her fishing skills and her bravery in the Yucatan jungles, so it has sort of a, he-said, she-said, with Sam writing extended footnotes, commenting on her story. So there’s interesting conversation, and it’s making the eyes move around the page in an interesting way. There’s a lot character in it. I’m often put off by first-person treatment, but in this case it’s great because we’re actually getting two really engaging characters. It's one of those stories where you wouldn’t just read the first paragraph and flip to the next page.
“So this piece is less about service and more about inspiring travel, and that’s why there’s a lot of experiential stuff. When you’re on a plane, and flying to visit your family, say, getting the specific address of a bar in a faraway city isn’t going to make you book a ticket to that city in the next month. But a really exciting story that shows you how easy it is to have an adventure, or, you know, ‘Hey I never learned how to fly fish and what better place to do it than the jungles of the Yucatan.” Maybe that’s something in six months you’ll be inspired to do. So for us it’s more about inspiring rather than the step-by-step information.”
“This piece we did for Go was for a drinks issue, and we don’t want to do the ten best bars, or some sort of contrived piece about mixology that you can read anywhere else. Instead, we played with the idea of blind tasting—the blind taste test is a significant part of alcohol connoisseurship. So we found the idea of blindness to be interesting, and we took it to its extreme. We sent three writers to three different places to experience blindfolded. We think drinking is about more than the alcohol, and we’re a travel magazine, not a wine review magazine, so we sent one writer to a vineyard in Virginia to taste one of their iconic grapes, and he kind of longs for the visual things that he’s missing, he can smell the air, and feel the breeze and he wishes he was seeing the beauty of the landscape while he was drinking.
“Another writer went to microbrew pubs in Colorado. He found that we’re often so focused on what we’re seeing visually and we don’t often hear the sounds, the hustle and bustle, you’re meeting people in a different way, and you’re getting the voice of the characters and the brew pub in a different way—and also you’re tasting in a different way.
“We sent the third writer to the Aviary, possibly the country’s best bar—Grant Achatz is the chef. He had lost his sense of taste to cancer a few years ago, so he de-constructs cocktails and food, and he could comment on what it’s like to lose one’s sense and how that enhanced his other senses. He concentrates so much on the presentation of his food, the textures, and our writer—and our readers—got to experience that.”