The Evolution of a Legacy Brand

An iconic brand is adapting in a time of rapid change.

Lisa DeFrees has been with FLYING since 1995. [FLYING]

In 1995 when I joined FLYING the National Science Foundation and its partners were just beginning to open up their World Wide Web for commercial use. The internet was in its infancy, with 20,000 websites in existence and little to no pathway to them for consumers. The tide slowly started to change with the launch of Google in 1998. Even so, magazine publishers had not made investments in digital publishing as it wasn’t a thing…yet

I am forever grateful to have started at FLYING when I did, as it instilled in me a great appreciation for print media and the vital role it plays in providing a focused and stable environment for readers to indulge, to learn, and to be inspired, free from distraction. I believe this is vital in aviation, where the risk and reward for pilots is far greater—and the need to learn is constant. We simply have to unplug sometimes. 

If the history of the world has taught us anything, it is that those who adapt will survive. The DNA of our brand has evolved more in the last 10 years than in the previous 85. The advances in data transfer speeds have given us a whole new host of ways in which we create, publish, distribute, and promote content. We are no longer a magazine—we are the new Flying Media Group with a print magazine, website, newsletter, over-the-top (OTT) platform, podcast, YouTube channel, and social pages. 

Consider how the way you aviate has changed in the last decade. Are you using an iPad when you fly? How many aviation apps are on your smartphone? With each new download there it is: reward and risk. When I returned to ground school in 2018, I had to promise my instructor I wouldn’t use any aviation apps on my phone until I learned everything manually and passed my knowledge exam. I value that guidance every time my iPhone battery dies at a critical moment. 

Despite endless digital innovation, print media is going through a renaissance. In fact, we are investing more in the magazine today than in any other period since I started with FLYING—and, perhaps, in our history. Unfortunately for all of us, there is no replacement for legends like Richard Collins and Gordon Baxter. But they all had to start somewhere. I’ve never been more confident; with Julie Boatman as editor-in-chief, we will curate the best talent possible, while we celebrate the continuing masterful work of Peter Garrison, the return of a slightly humbled Martha Lunken, our endless envy of Sam Weigel’s aviation lifestyle—and many more voices to come. 

I have invested more than half of my life in FLYING for good reason. The experience of flight is life altering for those of us fortunate enough to fly. It has won wars, saved lives, supported humanitarianism, brought people together, and enabled life experiences that would have otherwise been impossible. Over the years, I have witnessed countless acts of kindness within this community that magnify just how special pilots are. This is the family we choose.

Since inception, FLYING has played a vital role in fostering growth in aviation. This is more important than ever. As we navigate the change in our pilot population and the media landscape, we will continue to evolve our business model, preserve our legacy, and—more importantly—champion the freedom of flight. 

By pilots, for pilots—and those aspiring to join this special family.

Lisa DeFrees is Publisher of FLYING Media Group. She's a student pilot and has been with FLYING for 27 years. She resides in Greenville, South Carolina with her dog, Chuck Yeager.

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