Outside Inc. Gears Up For Membership, With CEO Robin Thurston

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Outside Inc. has, through a string of acquisitions, assembled more than two dozen active lifestyle brands into a single portfolio. The company now owns Backpacker, Women’s Running, Yoga Journal, Outside Magazine, Outside TV, Gaia GPS, SKI, Peloton Magazine, the event registration company athleteReg and about 20 other media products.

This week on the podcast, CEO Robin Thurston discusses Outside’s audience opportunity and its plan to grow subscriptions to 50% of revenue.

One thing you won’t hear him talk much about is growing the company’s ad business. In a perfect world, he says, advertising revenue will remain flat.

“In all the ad businesses I’ve been involved with … I could give you many examples of engineering resources that were put into building ad products to meet a brand need to distribute messaging on the platform,” he said.

Quite often, he says, those products hurt the user experience. That’s why the company is laser-focused on membership.

“I don’t want to overinvest in technology or services that are driven by an advertiser that aren’t necessarily the best consumer experience,” Thurston says. “I do believe that at times the ad business is in direct conflict with building the best consumer product. That’s one of the reasons why, even in our long-term forecast on advertising, we see it being stable with where it’s at on the trajectory, but we don’t necessarily want to double that revenue.”

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