When Pocket Outdoor Media acquired Outside Magazine and related assets in February 2021, the sky was the limit.
The deal significantly expanded the scope of its audience and the range of services it offered to customers, the Boulder, Colorado-based company said at the time. It even took on the name of its marquee acquisition, Outside.
Along with Outside Media, the
company announced several other acquisitions at the same time, including Outside TV, Gaia GPS, a mobile mapping and navigation app for backcountry adventurers and professionals, event registration
platforms athleteReg, and the bicycling magazine Peloton. These brands would join existing Pocket brands including Ski, Yoga Journal, Women’s
Running, Triathlete, Backpacke
Combined, the new assets would create a platform whose scale across television, mobile, desktop, and print would be unparalleled in the outdoor, endurance, fitness, and wellness markets.
The concept was legitimately innovative, which is a relatively rare occurrence in magazine-related media. Together, they’d round out a robust membership offering called Active Pass, (later changed to Outside Plus, a $99 annual offering that would give consumers a bundle of premium digital content, print subscriptions, event entries and photography, books, gear discounts, a personalized feed, and interactive experiences with editors, pro athletes, coaches, and other experts.
“This is a transformational day for our company and our customers,” the new Outside’s CEO Robin Thurston said at the time. “Everything we do is driven by a belief that a hike, run, ride, or yoga practice can change your life, and these new brands will help us fulfill our mission to build the world’s best consumer experience across a wide range of activities.”
Fast-forward 15 months, and things aren’t going as planned. Late last week, the company told the staff via a video conference on Friday that it was laying off 15% of its 580-person workforce or about 85 to 90 people, as part of a transition away from print and toward a digital media enterprise.
The news was reported in the Denver Business Journal and the regional magazine 5280, among others.
As part of the transition to digital, 5280 reported that Outside is planning to reduce print publications by 80%, according to a letter Ski magazine editor Sierra Shafer posted on Twitter and subsequently deleted. The cycling magazines Beta and Peloton and the women’s fitness magazine Oxygen will be shuttered within the next six months, 5280 reported. Other print magazines will publish only special issues.
“Outside has grown tremendously over the past two years, with 20 acquisitions and a quadrupled paid membership to over 800,000 paid subscribers,” Outside’s PR firm told 5280. “But growth often necessitates change. We are making a concerted shift from a high volume of print to a greater focus on immersive video and digital storytelling. With this shift, Outside made the difficult but necessary decision to reduce headcount.”
In the video meeting last week, Thurston said downsizing the venture-backed company allows for a “longer runway” in advance of an IPO.