More than 600 million pairs of eyes used to scan SkyMall’s pages each year. For most of its history it has been, technically, just an advertising company, charging clients up to $129,000 per issue plus a transaction fee to feature one of their products. One could use a seatback airphone (remember those?) free of charge to call SkyMall customer service and place orders in-flight—though many customers simply took the catalogs off their flights to place their orders over the phone later.

Christine Aguilera, SkyMall’s president from 1997 to 2013, was never shy about giving interviews. Aguilera told the New York Times in 2009 that her favorite SkyMall product was a household bug vacuum—the catalog’s 5th-best seller that year—that she considered essential for dealing with scorpions in her Arizona home. The average customer, at least back in 2009, was someone with a college degree and an income of more than $75,000 a year.

The Los Angeles Times warned that trouble was afoot in April of 2014. XhibitCorp, SkyMall’s newish parent company at the time, had just reported that the publication lost $3.2 million over a six-month period in 2013. Staff meetings in Phoenix, Arizona, where new products being considered for the catalog were passed around for show-and-tell, had taken on a “new urgency.” Though SkyMall was trying to come up with a digital strategy to stay competitive, its modus operandi was still, as always, to provoke in customers an “Oh my God, why didn’t I think of that?” reaction.

Even in 2013, when Pricenomics’ Rohin Dhar spent some 2,500 words delving into SkyMall’s history, there were signs. Dhar described XhibitCorp as “a company that makes its money selling spammy weight-loss products,” and “more of a parody of a tech company than a real company at all.”

Dhar concluded by saying that he found the situation “sad” and “confusing,” and wondered whether perhaps SkyMall’s association with the “lowly” XhibitCorp was “karma for the decades of using their catalogue to sell a bunch of lovable but useless junk.”

📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.