‘Outside’ magazine shifts staffing, cuts issues

Santa Fe-based lifestyle magazine continues push to digital

You wouldn’t think it by looking at the glossy covers featuring some gritty outdoor warrior or a serene vista, aspirational story titles beckoning readers inside—but Outside magazine is shrinking.

Wednesday, the publication, which has offices in Boulder and New York City but counts Santa Fe as its headquarters, confirmed to SFR that it will cut back publication of its print magazine from 11 issues to eight times a year. It will continue its summer and winter outdoor gear buyer’s guides. The magazine has laid off four print-focused editorial staff members from its Santa Fe offices.

Christopher Keyes, Outside‘s editor, said the magazine held off on making a formal announcement because of concern that it would be seen as another print publication succumbing to market pressure.

“That’s not how we envision it,” Keyes told SFR. “Nor do we think it’s putting a spin on it to say we’re focusing on digital growth.”

Outside is still hiring for three video and digital positions that will be at the company’s Santa Fe office, Keyes said. He pegged editorial staff at generally between 30-33 people. Accounting, human resources and other general functions are based in Santa Fe, too. Overall, he said, the company’s footprint in Santa Fe would not change drastically.

The “switch to digital” is a familiar refrain in the print media industry, as companies look to leverage the migration of readers from the page to the internet. Outside, however, seems to have made a more successful go of it than many magazines.

“Pretty much everyone here, especially in editorial, is working on both print and digital,” Keyes said.

The magazine has been long considered one of the industry’s best, honored five times in a row for general excellence by the National Magazine Awards. It was founded in 1976 by Larry Burke, who both bought the magazine’s title from Rolling Stone‘s Jann Wenner and merged it into his existing magazine, then called Mariah. Burke, who owns a ranch near Santa Fe, is now in his mid-70s and still an active adventurer. Outside has been home to such noted authors as John Krakauer and Sebastian Junger.

The magazine features the two annual gear issues and is full of list-driven content like the best small towns and, in this month’s issue, the best places to work.

Its print run per issue is about 675,000, and the magazine estimates roughly four people read each copy each month. An annual subscription runs $24, or you can get two years for $36. The company does not have a paywall on its website, though Keyes said that concept has been discussed.

Outside has made a strong shift toward online and video-based content. It boasts 38 million “active-lifestyle participants” across its Outside-branded media landscape, which includes podcasts, a TV network and attendant video production team, and a planned two-day expo in Chicago next summer called the Outside Experience, which would feature outdoor gear and music. It puts on an annual Bike and Brew in Santa Fe (technically, this year it was in Glorieta). It’s also rolled out an adventure travel brand called Outside GO. None of those offshoots will be significantly impacted by Outside‘s staffing changes.

Keyes said it’s hard to characterize whether the brand has more successfully managed a digital transformation relative to other magazines.

“Every publication has a different story,” he said, adding that periodicals behave differently than a daily or weekly newspaper. “Unlike a direct, daily newspaper, we’re a magazine that is unique to the marketplace.”

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