Outside+ looking in

Ask not for whom the bike bell tolls.

Ring-a-ding-ding, bitches.

It was never a question of if, but of when. The Greater Outside+ Globe-Spanning Vertically Integrated Silo O’ Sports & Fitness, LLC, has begun excreting magazines and scribes, because that’s what vulture capitalists do: Gobble and shit, gobble and shit.

I knew my time was up last year when I saw the thousand-pound sack of boilerplate contract Outside’s drones expected me to sign if I cared to keep drawing funnies for Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

After a quick semantic analysis boiled their bullshit down to its smoky essence — “All hope abandon, ye who enter here!” — I trimmed it to a few salient grafs that cut straight to the chase, sent them off, and never heard another peep.

Not long afterward, I retired.

Now, the folks who stuck around and did the work are getting the old heave and also the ho. Talented types like Ben Delaney and Nicole Formosa, to name just two. It’s basically v2.0 of Competitor Group Inc., which gave Charles Pelkey and John Wilcockson the bum’s rush Back in the Day®. Same old guillotine, just different heads and an Outside Gear Box instead of the usual basket.

I can’t speak to the quality of the publications that lost staffers or are going dark entirely. I don’t read them. My subscription dollars are spent elsewhere.

But if these pubs aren’t profitable, I’m guessing it’s probably not Ben’s fault, or Nicole’s. Might have something to do with an overabundance of supernumeraries who don’t write, edit, shoot, sketch, or sell.

If I were showing people the door in an effort to save money I might start with anyone who uses the bloodless words “product” and “content” to describe “stories” and “photographs.” There’s always work for people who think everything is a commodity, including their souls.

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14 Responses to “Outside+ looking in”

  1. khal spencer Says:

    Sucks. I ride past the old Outside building in Fanta Se regularly. Never see a soul there. Seems emblematic of today’s journalism.

    On another note, I got an email saying my Bicycling subscription was ending. Huh? I’ve gotten it the last dozen years via my LAB membership, which is good through next year (and the year after that, etc, as long as I have a pulse). But apparently, Buycycling doesn’t work with the LAB any more. So Bicycling goes. Every once in a while I find a golden nugget in Bicycling but usually, it is pushing doo-dads, new bikes, and widgets it wants me to buy. I’ve got enough doo-dads et al. What I want are stories and pictures. Not content, product, or Shit I Don’t Need.

    Sorry. Just old and cranky. Move on, don’t pay any attention to the man ranting from the front porch.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Ayuh. A friend sent a clip from a paywalled Colorado business-mag story that frankly boggled my mind.

      “But the company had not stopped to rationalize its size or examine the redundancies created by all its acquisitions until the past few months, CEO Robin Thurston said in an interview Friday. That process has led to the latest changes, which were outlined to staff over the past two days.”

      That right there would fail to inspire confidence in leadership, were I still in a position to be inspired. I mean, shit, I understand impulse shopping. I’ve boughtened about 18-20 bicycles and hung ’em in my garage. But I wasn’t expecting to make money out of ’em for myself or my investors. And I won’t be laying anyone off when the revenues I did not anticipate fail to eventuate.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Inspired by leadership? Seriously?

        I almost got fired from LANL about a dozen years before I retired. The compromise was I ended up working for one of my techs, at least on paper. Until I changed organizations and gave my previous organization the Single Digit Salute.

        My team was shorthanded, working with old equipment, and flogged for not producing enough of what management wanted. Then management cancelled a new hire as I was writing the person the job acceptance letter and a day later, said we “first line managers” all had to go to a day’s worth of training on how to use the vaunted new HR system for evaluating people.

        I emailed the folks up the food chain explaining why I thought the new system was no better than the old one and my consternation of how we could waste people’s and the company’s time with this new nonsense while saying we didn’t have funds for hiring badly needed scientists for critical mission work. Well, you can probably imagine what happened next. I got called into my boss’s office and red the riot act, as apparently his boss blew a fuse at my email.

        One is not supposed to question the wisdom of those up the food chain. I’m glad I’m out. F that noise. It was all so stupid.

        • DownhillBill Says:

          I once rehired a superb former employee when her hubby was transferred back to town. On the morning of her first day I was told my boss’s boss had changed what passed for his mind and the deal was off. I, of course, had to be the one to break the news. People like that never do their own dirty work. You can probably imagine how that little interview went, except for the fact that she understood and didn’t blame me at all (!). It’s just so much fun shitting on a really nice (not to mention skilled) person.
          Happy ending: she retained a labor lawyer and successfully sued the company. When they finally got around to announcing the firing of the jackass, another manager and I slipped around the corner from the meeting, jumped up, clicked our heels, and sang “Ding, dong, the witch is dead!” We hoped they heard us.

  2. Si Little Says:

    I spent 50 + years working in a one tier “pyramid”, eg self. I read this stuff and listen to my kids . Glad I chose the pucker brush…

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Once you hitch your little red wagon to someone else’s donkey you’re taking their trip. It’s like Hunter S. Thompson said: “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”

      I was in on the ground floor of the rebuild of VeloNews and the launching of Bicycle Retailer. It was a lot of fun for a while. Even made some money for the people who owned them and the people who worked there. Then those darn Innertubes came along and information decided it wanted to be free. Or its consumers decided they didn’t want to pay for it.

      A bar that gives away the whiskey doesn’t stay in business very long. Not even a tip jar helps.

  3. Pat O’Brien Says:

    Another trip down this road, heh? Magazines are like that beautiful bell on your bike. Wow, look at that they say. But, few folks will buy one. And, with what “the street” is doing to the economy right now, the few that do buy will stop.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Just ’cause you want to write about something doesn’t mean the rubes want to pay to read it.

      We see all these “bicyclists” and think, “Wow, what an audience we have!” But they’re not all eager to hear what we have to say. Plenty of people use lawn mowers, too, but you don’t see Lawn Mower Retailer and Industry News or MowerNews crushing it out there in the marketplace.

      Outside’s model was interesting — build a salable audience by bringing a bunch of niche pubs and their readers under one roof, make a clubhouse out of it — but it reminds me of the old cable-TV arrangement, where you pay X amount of money for a jillion channels when you only want HBO. Thus the Rise of the Cable-Cutters.

      If I wanted to read Oxygen, whatever that is, I’d sign up for it. But I don’t. I don’t even want to read VeloNews. Or CyclingTips, PinkBike, or whatever other bike-related pubs remain in the Outside stable. I’d rather ride bikes than read about them. Though I make an exception for Grant P’s Blahg over at Rivendell.

      And I read a lot. I subscribe to The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, Charles Pierce at Esquire, and Adventure Journal. I peek at The New Yorker and The Paris Review until the paywalls slam down (I really should subscribe). Novels, short stories, non-fiction, gots to have my books.

      I’m a cyclist, a reader, in possession of disposable income and a willingness to part with it. So where’s my magazine? Beats me.

      • khal spencer Says:

        It’s getting nutty, though. We get the Grey Lady, New Yorker, Atlantic, New Mexican, Journal, the Washington Post courtesy of my LANL badge, 3 public radio affiliates, and a few of those things I call pay-blogs, such as The Dispatch, the Bulwark, Bari Weiss’s fulminations, and Slow Boring. And Adventure Cycling. I’m ditching Buycycling now that they are ditching the League.

        Seems everyone is hitching their ride to those pay-blogs and you can pretty fast end up burning a lot of money on one-offs. I wish they would all put together what you call the old cable-TV arrangement. I’ll take one from the blue pile and one from the red pile.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        Yeah, a la carte is always more expensive. But you get what you want. It’s like building a bike starting with the frameset and adding bits as you can find and/or afford them. You get what you want, not what a product manager thinks you (and his budget) need.

        I’ve been thinking about a Soma Pescadero. But whoo, those Paul’s centerpulls are strictly top shelf.

    • Pat O’Brien Says:

      One of the few magazines that impress me is Wood and Steel, a Taylor Guitar quarterly you get free when you buy one of their guitars. Of course it’s also part catalog and talks about guitar making, mostly Taylor guitar making. But, it is well done on quality paper. You can read it online at the Taylor website. I guess I should have kept my ACA membership going after I stopped riding to support a worthy organization and good magazine.

      • Shawn Says:

        Hmm? That’s an idea that certainly isn’t new but is always worth a thought – Tying a written periodical with the sale of a reasonably priced item. A person pays several hundred dollars for something, and a well thought out periodical is part of the sale. After a couple of years the person would then have the option of continuing the periodical at a cost.

        But what always kills the quality of a good thing, is the capitalistic impulse to make more money. Something can be just good enough, but somewhere along the line a person who wants that high dollar house and car realizes that with just a bit of tweaking, more money (ads and mass marketing) can be made and the original quality of that something only then shimmers on the surface. The creamy filling is replaced with out-of-date canned cake frosting. There are fine periodicals out there, supporting quality writing and art. Perhaps Wood and Steel is one of them. But they (the small publisher) need to stick with their core quality and their readership needs to be honest with the amount that they pay for that quality. How much would it take to maintain the balance between quality and the downhill slide into capitalist venture? In another society with a structure that is built to a lesser extent on always making more, this philosophy is easier to maintain. But in our society (the good ole USA – MAGA, Maga baby !) with the marketing and advertising that continually pushes us to want more, it’s a tough task. Sometimes just enough is ok.

        and POG, you may send me the bill anytime at your convenience. Just realize that the amount I will pay may not be enough to pay for the full monthly payment of that new Toyota Megasaurus Hybrid Dual-Fuel Bio-Fart SUV with the FBC package.

        Fancy Bike Carrier

      • Pat O’Brien Says:

        They want you to but more Taylor guitars! The photography in the mag is top drawer and drool worthy. I have owed 4 of their guitars, and presently have two. I guess giving me the magazine is not a big deal for their bottom line. Since they are 100% employee owned, maybe they aren’t as greedy as some investment fund suits. But, if the subscription price was reasonable, I would pay for it.

        https://woodandsteel.taylorguitars.com/en/

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