You reach into the seat pocket and there it is – the Holland Herald. Millions of KLM passengers have preceded you over the past 50 years. The first Holland Herald became available aboard our flights on 21 January 1966.
Passengers seek distraction, need distraction, during a flight. Something to eat and drink, and something to read. Back in the days before inflight entertainment systems, passengers read a book or did some knitting. I’m no expert on the latter, but I can tell you more about inflight reading and, more specifically, our inflight magazine.
KLM wasn’t the first airline to present passengers with an inflight magazine. Pan Am led the way, but today Holland Herald is the longest running inflight magazine in the world. But where did it all begin?
Six issues were published in 1966, but by the following year Holland Herald was appearing on a monthly basis. The size of the print run is unknown, but according to the colophon the magazine had a confirmed readership of 100,000 people. Nowadays, the print run is 135,000 and it is estimated that around 2 million people read the Holland Herald. Looking at issues from 1966 and 1967, the first thing I noticed was that there was lots of text, certainly compared to modern magazines. I reckon there was enough reading matter to keep the average passenger entertained from Schiphol to, say, Madrid. Reading non-stop.
Black & white
Colour printing was expensive, so the Holland Herald was largely black & white in 1966, with a coloured page here and there. Perhaps this gave passengers something to look forward to. Get all your black & white reading done and then take a break with a full-colour spread, usually an advertisement. Some of which were lovely. This one, for instance, for tax-free shopping. The lady in the middle has an ecstatic look about her. Apparently, tax-free shopping can be a source of incredible joy.
The Holland Herald was launched at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam. No reports were published regarding the presentation, but the hotel’s waiters evidently showed an interest. Wolkenridder Magazine devoted a short piece to the first edition, in which it stressed that the Holland Herald’s editorial team was “wholly independent in terms of content as well as political and religious affiliations.”
The magazine did, however, have a mission: Holland promotion. The magazine was produced under auspices of the Netherlands Association for Foreign Traffic (ANVV) and the Netherlands Council for Trade Promotion (CKH), which distributed the magazine to its relations. KLM ensured that the magazine was available aboard its aircraft and at all KLM offices worldwide. This meant the magazine was assured of an international readership.
The Holland Herald is still a news and publicity medium today. The contents are now much more internationally oriented than in the early days, because the world of KLM has expanded. People have become more mobile and the internet has made it much easier to find our way around and take a look before we fly. This is reflected in the style and format of the magazine, which currently has around 150 counterparts at airlines worldwide. Eighty percent of the passengers reads an inflight magazine and, on average, they spend 19 minutes doing so. In short, a very interesting medium for advertisers. And this certainly shows.
Today, no fewer than 594 editions of the Holland Herald have been published. Enough to fill 4.5 metres of shelf space (at an average thickness is 0.75 cm). Is there anyone who has the full collection? I doubt it, because most people leave the Holland Herald on board in the seat pocket. That’s not necessary, because it’s “your copy to keep”, as it says on the first page. If you’d like to know more about the editors, the February edition, marking the anniversary, features a great interview with the Holland Herald’s former managing editor, who was in charge of the magazine from 1977 to 2004. And for those of you who won’t be flying in February, you can also read Holland Herald online.