Outside Business Journal

Pocket Outdoor Media Acquires Outside Magazine

The new company aspires to be the preeminent global source of content, experiences, utilities, community, and services for active lifestyle participants


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There’s seismic news in the media, outdoor, endurance, and tech industries today. Pocket Outdoor Media (parent company to OBJ, Backpacker, and nearly 30 other active living brands) announced news that will catapult the Boulder-based company into a powerful position in these industries: It has purchased Outside Magazine, Outside TV, Gaia GPS, Peloton Magazine, and athleteReg.

Additionally, Pocket Outdoor Media is rebranding to Outside, effective today.

“Adding these businesses to our portfolio and rebranding Pocket is a transformative moment for us,” said Robin Thurston, CEO of the all-new Outside. “Together with our other category-leading properties—SKIYoga JournalBackpackerTrail RunnerVeloNewsClimbingWarren Miller Entertainment, Roll Massif, FinisherPix, OBJ, and more—these brands make our new company the world’s leading creator of active living content, experiences, travel, and services. We now deliver content to almost every home in America across every platform, screen, and device.”

Creating and Building the Platform

Under Thurston’s leadership, Pocket Outdoor Media (now Outside), has been scooping up brands and talent from all over the active lifestyle market, all in an effort to build the world’s best consumer product in the category and to reach a larger audience with his core message: “We believe that a hike, run, ride, or yoga practice can change your day and change the world.”

Last summer, the founder and past CEO of MapMyFitness acquired a suite of brands from Active Interest Media, including Backpacker, SKI, Climbing, Yoga Journal, Outside Business Journal, and 13 others.

Then, in October, the company acquired Big Stone Publishing, which includes Rock & Ice, Gym Climber, and Trail Runner.

And when A360 Media abruptly shuttered Powder, Bike, Surfer and Snowboarder in December 2020, Thurston immediately picked up the phone and started recruiting talent. The result: Sierra Shafer and Micah Abrams came on board to lead SKI and Warren Miller Entertainment. And Nicole Formosa and several others from Bike were brought in to launch a brand new mountain bike brand: Beta.

There were several other acquisitions during the fall of 2020, like Paleo Magazine and FinisherPix, a global event photography business, that are all part of the team’s master plan to build the ultimate consumer experience for the active lifestyle participant.

Larry Burke Moves On

Thurston then set his sights on what many consider the crown jewel of outdoor media: Outside, which reaches 38 million people a month across all platforms. Founder, chairman, and editor-in-chief of Outside Integrated Media, Larry Burke, has had countless opportunities to sell over the years, but he never found the right fit.

“Like Robin, I’ve always believed in the power of great storytelling,” said Burke, who will be retiring from his day-to-day duties at Outside to work on his memoir“When we published our first issue of Outside magazine in 1977, we helped give birth to what is now an $887 billion outdoor industry, and we’ve been pioneering the art of adventure ever since. Our stories have won awards in print, video, and film, and we’ve inspired millions of people to ‘live bravely.’ It’s everything I could’ve wanted to do with my life, and I’m delighted to find such a good home for Outside among Pocket’s outdoor brands.”

“I’m deeply honored to help write the next chapter for these iconic businesses,” said Thurston.

All employees of Outside (as well as Outside TV, Gaia GPS, Peloton, and athleteReg) will receive job offers, and no relocation will be required. “It’s a marriage made in media heaven,” said Outside’s Scott Parmelee. “We can’t wait to start bringing this new energy to our partners in the outdoor and active lifestyle industry.”

Inside the New Brands

Outside Magazine has been delivering award-winning journalism to 675,000+ monthly subscribers for more than 40 years, while Outside Online sees 4.1 million unique monthly visitors. This broadens the scope of Pocket’s existing 30 million monthly reach with a new pool of active lifestyle participants.

With Outside TV, Thurston’s company gains an instant and substantial footprint in the world of cable, satellite, and streaming television. Outside TV reaches more than 30 million homes across the country with 24/7 programming focused on a wide variety of activities: skiing and snowboarding, surfing, climbing, mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, and more.

Gaia GPS and athleteReg bring complementary assets to the toolbox. As the world’s leading backcountry mapping app, Gaia GPS will provide mapping, route finding, and navigation across the Outside platform, benefiting readers of Backpacker, Trail Runner, Climbing, and SKI.

AthleteReg will allow the new Outside to interact with participants through all stages of their event experience, and will also provide event directors with access to a range of services across the Outside platform.

And Peloton Magazine (no relation to the exercise equipment company) complements the company’s family of cycling titles. “As a lifelong cyclist, I’m personally thrilled to welcome Peloton, one of my go-to reads for its evocative celebrations of the sport,” said Thurston.

Active Pass Membership Ties Everything Together

But perhaps what excites Thurston the most is how these brands will come together to fortify the powerful value proposition of its membership program, Active Pass. Launched in 2020, the Active Pass program was designed to create a hub for members to receive exclusive access to premium content, education and training, access and discounts on gear and events, and innovative platforms and services to improve access to and quality of people’s active experiences.

“As we bring these brands onto our platform, our customers will see new benefits added to the membership: advanced navigation tools that’ll keep people safe while skiing and backpacking; exclusive access to first-run documentaries; access to member-only adventures; expanded gear discounts; and—of course—the option for members to select an annual subscription to their favorite print magazine,” said Thurston. “This is all in addition to hundreds of dollars in value in the form of premium digital content, magazines, event entries and photography, training plans, recipes, books, a personalized feed, and interactive experiences with editors, pro athletes, coaches, and other experts.”

Behind the Rebrand

A rebranding project has been underway at Pocket Outdoor Media since summer 2020, when Thurston made it clear that his company was much more than a traditional media entity. Thurston’s vision is to build what he calls 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 uniquely customized for each active lifestyle enthusiast.

Pocket Outdoor Media acquires five new companies and a new brand identity. (Photo: Courtesy)

It’s big, heady stuff, and the new company name had to reflect that. When the Outside acquisition was confirmed, the lightbulb went off. “It’s hard to imagine a more succinct, impactful, and inspiring name than Outside,” said Thurston. “Being outside, being active and healthy, and conducting business in an environmentally responsible way is at the center of everything we do here. So not only did we acquire two amazing brands, we also found the company name that we had been searching for.”