In all the vast landscape of periodical media—defined as businesses that produce curated content on regular intervals—in print or online or both—there’s nothing as fascinating as the world of independent operators. These businesses, often small single-brand operations, or at most a handful of brands, are frequently entrepreneurial startups with little or no outside backing, often run by families and serving narrowly defined niches.
Sometimes, media brands are passed down from generation to generation. And sometimes people leave other careers to launch a magazine or website.
Either way, they always have a great story to tell—one of passion, determination, business smarts and grit. Such is the story of In Flight USA, a monthly family-run publication based in San Mateo, California.
Fox Tales caught up with associate publisher Annamarie Buonocore, a second-generation executive at the 39-year-old company, which launched a second publication, the quarterly BizAvJets USA, produced in partnership with the Las Vegas-based BizAvJets Inc., in 2021.
Here’s a transcript of our conversation with Buonocore, edited for brevity and clarity.
Fox Tales: You took over the In Flight USA business. How long have you been doing it?
Annamarie Buonocore: In Flight USA is my family business. My parents started it in 1984. I started in 2006 while still in high school, selling advertising for our wine magazine at the time, California Vine Times. After a break to attend university and start my own literary journal, I returned in 2013 as an editor. I jumped into advertising sales full time in 2017. For all intents and purposes, I say I have been doing this for 10 years, but I have basically been doing this forever.
Fox Tales: What have you learned, and what would you recommend to aspiring publishers?
Buonocore: Here’s a little-known secret: Google and Facebook are more media companies than they are tech companies. In small business niche publishing, we do exactly what they do. For some this might sound like bad news. How will we ever keep up with such giants? But this is actually very good news, because we can offer something that they cannot—a focused niche with expertise.
In my company, we focus on the aviation niche and have writers who are experts in the field, even in certain types of aircraft. Many people still enjoy print, so it is a unique advantage that is making a comeback. But here’s what I have learned: You are not above teens on TikTok with zillions of followers. Building a strong digital presence is crucial. This can be done through an optimized website, ecommerce, strong social media interaction, and powerful email campaigns between published issues.
Fox Tales: Tell us about your growth plans.
Buonocore: When asked about growth plans, I say three things: Artificial intelligence, ecommerce, and digital consulting. Of course, I plan to keep up with my cold calls and increase my display ad sales and print distribution. But when we talk to advertisers in 2023, we are not just taking orders like we did back in my dad’s day. Think of talking to advertising prospects like venture capitalists.
My growth plans include AI solutions to help advertisers get results and track their ads, building a strong ecommerce site that I will combine with my aircraft brokering, and offering more solutions to promote the display ads that we sell. In the old days, it was enough to publish an ad and say “have a nice day.” These days, we have become service providers, helping clients with email campaigns, websites, social media, SEO, videos, podcasts, and a range of other media. It is truly a business that offers products and services, and I am excited to watch this older family business grow into a larger media company here in Silicon Valley.
Fox Tales: You’re considering a franchise business with Born to Age, a business you recently acquired. Tell us about that model.
Buonocore: Born to Age is not exactly a franchise yet. I asked permission to start an edition for my local area, which is the San Francisco Peninsula (from San Francisco to about Palo Alto). A year and a half later, the publishers of the other Bay Area editions retired, so I bought the business. I plan to sell licenses to publishers in other territories who want to start a magazine for seniors and their caregivers, but that is down the road.
Fox Tales: Born to Age is different from your other two brands. Why that one?
Buonocore: Yes, the field of seniors and caregiving is quite different from aviation or any other niche our company has pursued in the past. Five years ago, I took on another business outside of publishing. I was a placement provider who helped seniors and their families move into assisted living and memory-care communities. I earned commissions from the placements and at times consulting fees.
I met the former publishers of Born to Age at a tradeshow and got the idea to start an edition for my locale. After I purchased Born to Age in its entirety, I no longer had time for placement, so I am pretty much a full-time publisher. I do a little consulting on the side. I got into working with seniors because a couple of my family members went through dementia, and I saw how difficult it was on their families. I have always loved older people, and I find it an honor to work with them. They have great stories.
Fox Tales: Your website mentions that you’re the new owner of Born to Age. Tell us about its history in your area in particular.
Buonocore: Born to Age is a publication with a history as rich as my In Flight. It started 20 years ago in the North Bay. I live south of the Golden Gate. The original publisher, Yvonne, started five editions: Solano County, Sonoma/Marin Counties, Napa County, Contra Costa County, and Alameda County. She sold the business to Ginger and Mark Kelly 10 years ago, and they ran it successfully for five years. I started the Peninsula edition two years ago, and I bought the whole entity about a year ago.
The magazine is a print and digital resource guide for seniors and those who care for them: Adult children, hired caregivers, friends, neighbors, etc. Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to care for the aging. In addition to the resources we list in our directories and on our website, we have kiosks with brochures in community centers, libraries, and local pharmacies that provide additional resources for this community. It is a true Bay Area business that I am proud to own.
Fox Tales: Fox Associates is the leader in outsourced sales and consulting. How do you envision them collaborating with your business?
Buonocore: I first met Bill [Bell, SVP, Director of Sales and Business Development] at Fox Reps when I was seeking a salesperson for our farming and ranching rodeo publication. He called me and was very eager to learn more about our operation. He took a strong interest in In Flight USA because of its age and circulation (30,000 per month). He gave me some very good advice, and we envision working with him and his team in the future as our publications grow and ad lines strengthen.