Commentary

Outside's Membership Deal Works With Value-Added Services

Outside Interactive Inc., the media company formed with this year’s acquisition of Outdoormagazine, aims to convert its readership into memberships. The business model can work by offering a mix of exclusive content and value-added services for outdoor enthusiasts.

The company in May introduced Outside+ as a bundle of ad-free digital content from its more than 20 enthusiast magazines, access to the Gaia GPS maps app, discounts on outdoor gear and early access to events, among other perks. Members also receive a print subscription to Outsideand one other magazine.

The program was one of the first signs of a new direction for Outside under new owner Robin Thurston. The tech entrepreneur co-founded the workout-tracking app MapMyFitness, which was sold to sportswear company Under Armour for $150 million in 2013. He entered the publishing business two years ago with the acquisition of Pocket Outdoor Media, whose brands included VeloNews, Triathlete, Women’s Running and Bicycle Retailer.

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The company expanded with the purchase of magazines including Ski, Backpacker and Yoga Journal from Active Interest Media last year. With the acquisition of Outside from longtime publisher Larry Burke, Pocket rebranded as Outside in February.
A key part of Outside’s revenue growth strategy will be to entice existing subscribers and readers of its websites into becoming members. Outside magazine has 530,000 print subscribers, while the print circulation for all of its other magazines is 680,000, The Washington Post reported in a profile of the company.
Thurston forecast that Outside can be profitable within a year, while its longer-term plan is to change its revenue mix to be more diversified among paying readers. Instead of generating 70% of its revenue from advertising, Outside wants to shift toward 70% from circulation in the next three years. It can reach that goal by converting 10% of visitors to its free websites into subscribers, the WaPo reported.
It’s an ambitious goal, but there is an opportunity to connect with younger adults who are seeking adventure travel they can share with their friends and followers on social media. As people hunger to get outdoors and resume air travel after a year of quarantining during the pandemic, there should be renewed interest in outdoor media brands.
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