Wouldn't you rather be reading a cheesy catalog?

Photographer: Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images

SkyMall's Crash Landing

Megan McArdle is a Bloomberg View columnist. She wrote for the Daily Beast, Newsweek, the Atlantic and the Economist and founded the blog Asymmetrical Information. She is the author of "“The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success.”
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Your one-stop shop for Lord of the Rings memorabilia, pet ramps, and snake-oil baldness cures is no more. Skymall, the catalog that for years filled the long minutes between takeoff, and permission to turn on your electronic devices, has suspended its catalog, fired almost 50 employees, and filed for bankruptcy. The reason? Apparently, the Federal Aviation Administration's recent decision to let people use small electronic devices during takeoff and landing. Without its captive audience, the catalog couldn't do enough business to survive.

While I have spent hours of my life perusing its eclectic collection of overpriced and useless products, I'd much rather be playing Monopoly on my iPad than gawking at the extraordinary schlock that some people will (apparently) buy. It seems that I am not alone.

What's interesting is that you have a company that was done in by a combination of technological and regulatory change. The technology came first, of course: The invention of the smartphone meant that Skymall had new competition for its audience's eyeballs. But it seems that the FAA was keeping it on life support with the ban on electronic device use during takeoff and landing; almost as soon as the regulators changed their minds, the company entered a death spiral.

Of course, I'm a little wistful about the passing of an era; Skymall was something that frequent flyers all over this great land had in common, like getting groped by the TSA. Aficionados of the catalog shouldn't fret too much; you can still buy the Zombie of Montclaire Moors from Amazon. And if you use the inflight wireless, you can even do so at 30,000 feet.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Megan McArdle at mmcardle3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
James Gibney at jgibney5@bloomberg.net