Outside Lays Off 12% of Staff in Second Round of Layoffs This Year

Outside Inc., the parent company of outdoor magazines including Backpacker, Outside, and Fastest Known Time, laid off 12% of its staff on Tuesday in its second round of mass layoffs this year. The company previously laid off 15% of its staff in May of 2022.

In an email to staff that he later published on Medium, CEO Robin Thurston cited “economic headwinds” and internal factors such as spending “too freely” as reasons for the layoffs. “Earlier this year, we began a major push to focus on profitability,” he wrote. “In order to achieve profitability by Q3 2023… we must manage our costs more tightly.”

Thurston said in his statement that Outside had modified its standard severance program for employees affected by the most recent layoff, extending minimum pay duration, healthcare coverage, and equity.

Those affected by recent layoffs include the editors-in-chief of CyclingTips and VeloNews. According to a Twitter thread by Mountain Gazette senior writer Ari Schneider, the roles eliminated are mostly from the content and journalism sectors. This is in line with the budget cuts in May, which eliminated or reduced the print run of several magazines, including Backpacker Magazine. Overall, 18% of employees in the content sector were laid off in May, including three Outside magazine editors.

In April 2022, Outside announced plans to launch an NFT marketplace called the Outerverse. According to Schneider, Thurston reportedly paused that program yesterday, claiming it hadn’t gone as planned. Schneider speculated on Twitter that its underperformance “may be one of the reasons Outside fell short of its projections,” although sources at Outside assured him it was not the primary reason for the layoffs.

Outside joins a growing number of companies laying off employees to cut operating costs, including tech giants Meta, Amazon, and Twitter.

The Growth of Outside Inc.

Thurston has been acquiring various outdoor and active-lifestyle companies since being named CEO of Outside, then called Pocket Outdoor Media, in 2019. In a 2021 Bicycle Retail article, reporter Steve Frothingham wrote that Thurston envisioned his media group becoming “the Amazon Prime of the active lifestyle: a connected, holistic ecosystem of resources — including content, experiences, utilities, community, commerce, education, and services — that can be customized for each active lifestyle enthusiast.”

Pocket Outdoor Media acquired Outside magazine in 2021 and rebranded as Outside Inc. Robert Sanchez of 5280 wrote in April 2022, just a month before the initial layoff, that Thurston’s plan was to “bring myriad brands from a single industry under one umbrella, anticipate customer needs, charge a subscription fee for all of it, and significantly de-emphasize the advertising revenue model,” in order to make profits more sustainable in the long run.

The consolidation was eyebrow-raising for some in the outdoor industry, including Mike Rogge, owner and editor of the Mountain Gazette. He told 5280’s Sanchez in April that the plan seemed risky, saying, “You’re putting all these titles under one company, so what happens if this doesn’t work?… (Thurston) is trying this one-size-fits-all thing, and I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all in this industry. I think customers can sniff that out a mile away.”

Featured image: Photo by S Migaj on Unsplash.

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Comments 5

  • Dustbin : Nov 17th

    Just in time for Christmas, 12% off. Woo hoo!

    No one wants to pay for crap articles. Hey Outside, drop the pay model and your readership and ad revenues may come back…assuming you fire the bad writers and hire some better ones.

  • Ralph B. Mahon : Nov 18th

    I’m 63 y/o, been hiking since I was a kid, I “was” a long time subscriber to Backpacker magazine.
    Loved the equipment articles, stories about hiker’s adventures.
    But then they focused on race articles, and joined the hate media.
    People hike, read about hiking to get away from that.
    I’ve hiked all over the east and parts of Canada, never had an issue with that.
    So I dropped my subscription, and sounds like others have as well.
    Hikers talk about the trails, wildlife, weather, equipment.
    Stop trying to fuel a fire.

    • SKYRUNNER : Dec 13th

      I agree. All the political stuff was the end of it for me too. Just stick to hiking, camping, trip ideas.

  • donfitness : Nov 21st

    I quit reading outside when they became obsessed with climate change.


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