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Arts & Culture

After two years of aggressive growth, magazine conglomerate Outside announces layoffs and digital-first focus

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Dominic Anthony Walsh
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Aspen Public Radio
Trail Runner magazine, which is based in Carbondale, will pivot to become a “digital-first, digital-only publication,” according to Editor-in-Chief Zoë Rom. The magazine will no longer publish six editions annually.

Pueden encontrar la versión en español aqui.

The magazine and media conglomerate Outside is eliminating three publications and laying off 66 full-time staffers.

In a written response to Aspen Public Radio, the company pointed to its rapid growth in size and subscriptions over the past two years. That meteoric growth includes 20 recent acquisitions of competing publications and brands, as well as a quadrupling of its paid-subscriber base to more than 800,000 accounts. Outside’s portfolio now includes some of the most high-profile brands in the sports and gear magazine industry: Boulder-based Outside, Backpacker, Climbing and Ski, and Carbondale-based Trail Runner, among others.

Trail Runner previously published six editions annually, but it will now scale back — a shakeup first reported by KDNK. No staffers at the magazine were laid off, according to Editor-in-Chief Zoë Rom.

In an emailed response to APR’s request for comment, she said Trail Runner is now “an online-first and online-only publication.”

“We will continue to publish daily news, training content and journalism from around the world of trail,” she wrote. “We're as committed as ever to objective coverage and insightful commentary of our sport!”

Outside executives were not available for an interview.

According to The Denver Business Journal, which published an exclusive interview with Outside CEO Robin Thurston on Friday, the company will shutter mountain-biking magazine Beta, bike-racing magazine Peloton and health-and-fitness magazine Oxygen due to consistent losses — and, except for the flagship Outside magazine, most of the company’s publications will now offer printed issues only once or twice annually.

Outside’s 32 remaining properties will instead focus on “immersive video and digital storytelling,” according to the company’s written statement.

In addition to the sweep of 20 acquisitions in two years, Outside has launched a new non-fungible tokens-based program and announced an upcoming cryptocurrency, Outside Coin.

The features will be part of the company’s “Outerverse,” which Outside described as “an adventure-minded, wellness-driven alternative to the Metaverse.”

In an early-April news release announcing the launch, Outside CEO Robin Thurston wrote, “The NFT initiative is just the first milestone in a roadmap that will redefine many aspects of our business.”

This week, Outside said in a written response to APR that the new digital-first focus will bring the conglomerate’s holdings in line with “what many in the media industry have seen as the future of media” and called the layoffs a “difficult but necessary decision.”

Editor’s note: This story was produced with assistance from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps, which is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

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