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.”
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.