Outside Ends Monthly Print Runs of Backpacker Magazine Amid Layoffs

Backpacker Magazine is one of several publications owned by Outside, Inc. that will reportedly end monthly print publications this year. The move accompanies dramatic layoffs at Outside that will reduce the media group’s 580-member staff by 15%.

Outside used to be called Pocket Outdoor Media. CEO Robin Thurston bought the company in 2019 and has since added dozens of outdoor brands to its lineup. These include Backpacker, Rock and Ice, and Fastest Known Time. In February 2021, Pocket purchased Outside Magazine from longtime owner Larry Burke and rebranded to Outside, Inc.

Now, the company plans to scale back print by roughly 80% as it focuses more heavily on digital media and high-quality video content. “With this shift, Outside made the difficult but necessary decision to reduce headcount. We’re incredibly grateful to everyone who has played an active role in helping the brand progress towards our vision of being the leading platform for outdoor content, services, and activity,” the media group said in a written statement.

Backpacker isn’t the only magazine on the chopping block. Outside will eliminate fitness magazine Oxygen and cycling periodicals Peloton and Beta altogether in the coming months. Meanwhile, most of Outside’s other publications (besides the brand’s flagship, Outside Magazine) will scale back to one or two print issues per year at most.

Backpacker has not released an official statement about the changes. As such, it’s not yet clear whether the magazine is eliminating print altogether or just scaling back.

Until now, Backpacker‘s print edition has come out nine times per year. Founded in 1973, it has long been the premier magazine for long-distance hiking enthusiasts alongside Outside Magazine. It appears that Backpacker will continue to produce digital content as usual, regardless of the print edition’s fate.

Featured image: Photo by S Migaj on Unsplash.

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Comments 6

  • John : May 24th

    Outside Inc is a dumpster fire. It became clear pretty quickly that the takeover was done without a lot of thought. They merged a lot of properties and are approaching AOL-like advertising volume (showing my age) in trying to get people to sign up for Outside+. Although it’s not a particularly compelling set of benefits, I asked them how they would handle pricing for people that may be interested in Outside+ but have active subscriptions that would be included in Outside+. Their answer was the existing subscriptions would be cancelled and Outside+ would be a fresh start – no refunds or pro-rated credit towards the new Outside+ subscription. When I told them this was ridiculous, I was offered a 50% discount. I never took it. Several months later, my GaiaGPS subscription had a couple of weeks left and was set not to auto renew. Looking at the subscription page, a year of Gaia was $39.99 but a year of Outside+ was $48. Curious, I subscribed at the $48 level and signed in to Outside+. Nothing works on the site.

    My advice to employees of any Outside Inc property is to get out ASAP. You are now working for a company owned by private equity. The only thing that matters is making the numbers to ensure profits for the investors – not the product, not the employees, and not the customers. Management will do what it needs to do to meet their revenue and profit budgets. And when all the value is picked away by the owners, the pieces will be sold off or disappear in bankruptcy. As for consumers, the magazines have been pretty worthless for a while now. Even the premier product, GaiaGPS, is on a slippery slope to becoming a wanna-be social network. Their selection of map layers is unparalleled, but the majority of them seem to be interesting but of little practical use. Caltopo is making great strides, and is now at the point where it is a serious competitor.

    Reply
  • Ralph B. Mahon : May 25th

    I was a long time subscriber to Backpacker magazine, until they shifted their focus from hiking to social issues.
    Been hiking all my life, never came across a social/race issue on the trail.
    People hike, and read about hiking to get away from the media hate.
    Backpacker acted as if they were feeding into it

    Reply
  • Shocktop : May 25th

    Well, that’s that. I have lots of back isssues to enjoy, which us what I’ve been doing anyway. Plus I can put $ to better use.

    Reply
  • John Harris : May 25th

    When my subscription to Backpacker came up for renewal, the only way to renew was to subscribe to the online edition with auto renewal, which I was not about to do. I allowed the subscription to lapse, and I really do not miss it. As for Outside’s online content, why pay for it when there are other sites of better quality, like this one (The Trek), REI’s Conversations, and others that are much more informative while also less commercial? I would rather read and see content produced by people who create content related to hiking and backing because they love it, not because they need a job.

    Reply
  • Marie Dautenhahn : May 27th

    I have been frustrated with the Outside takeover. Costs are too high for the products they offer and guess what? I LOVE reading the magazines and keeping them for future reference. Keep your digital products, I will not be renewing.

    Reply
  • Russ1663 : Jun 1st

    I guess I will save a bit on money. I had just started reading Backpacker and occasionally Climb. I am from a time before “online” so I prefer printed magazines. I had noted the social agenda shift in the last year or so. No mistake, it is right to treat your fellow man and/or woman with respect. Sigh, less items in the recycle bin. Trek on Brothers and Sisters, trek on.

    Reply

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