After eight years, Hooked on the Outdoors Magazine is officially ceasing publication. “We are making this announcement with much remorse and sadness. The outdoor marketplace is losing a great publication and brand-one that certainly gave back more than any other in the category,” reflected Jeff Espy, CEO and publisher of Hooked on the Outdoors. “While the award-winning publication has been well received by consumers and the outdoor industry, the financial model just isnt working for us.”
Espy and his partners Jason Meninger, president, and Chris King, chairman, concur that the publication was a valuable tool for its advertisers and a diverse magazine for its readers; however, it brought in little or no margins over the last several years, which made it near impossible for the publication to grow.
Said Espy, “We are proud of our longevity in this market and the quality publication that we created for our readers and advertising partners.” Hooked on the Outdoors was recognized for its excellence as winner of a Katie Award in 2004 and a San Francisco Honorary Publications Award in 2005.
“We are not being shut down by zero market demand just a brutally honest management decision that we cant run a company with break-even profits at best,” he continued.
Espy attributes the lack of return partly to spiraling print advertising budgets, advertiser shifts to new media, continual increases in print, paper and transportation costs, and an unprofitable growth strategy in 2005 that included adding two additional issues of the magazine and one additional mobile marketing tour.
“The print environment has certainly looked better in the past when margins were higher,” he observed. “Many advertisers now want the largest print marketing campaign for the least possible investment, which does not contribute to the viability of media companies. I imagine that this trend will continue in the publishing world, particularly in the outdoor industry.”
Espy noted that Hooked outlasted numerous publications in the outdoor and adventure travel categories including Outdoor Explorer, Blue, Elevation and Adventure Sports. All four ceased publishing within the last few years due to the tightening of this category.
He went on to explain, “We rode out the storm as long as we could, hoping it was a cyclical trend, really since the end of the initial dot-com bust. The endemic market place is as tough to crack now as it was post 2001. Combined with the rising cost of paper, printing and distribution fees, it has become a non-profitable proposition for Hooked from a print publishing perspective.”
Espy and his team were committed not just to the publication but to the outdoor industry as a whole, supporting non-profit organizations including The Conservation Alliance, National Park Trust, tread lightly!, Leave No Trace, IMBA, Surfrider Foundation, American Whitewater, American Hiking Society, Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), Outdoor Industry Womens Coalition (OIWC), SIA and many others. Espy has also served on the board of the Outdoor Industry Association in varying capacities since 2005.
The magazine principals existing business, ADventure Advertising LLC, continues to be a profitable business and will carry on offering marketing services including custom publishing, catalog development and mobile/event marketing planning and execution. “We are seeing movement in the mobile marketing and custom publishing arenas and feel they are much more robust business models for us and our clients moving forward.”
As for Hooked on the Outdoors, the 2006 Fishing Annual is currently in circulation, and the final issue, the Summer 2006 Gear and Travel Guide, will be available in July. “We are firmly committed to fulfilling our obligations to our advertisers by producing a world-class Summer Gear Guide,” Espy remarked.
The Hooked Event Tour will run in its entirety for 2006, providing targeted core impressions and services for its sponsors. Hooked will also maintain its website, www.ruhooked.com through the remainder of the year.
Espy commented that editorial staff including Editor-in-Chief Nancy Coulter Parker, Executive Editor Doug Schnitzpahn and Art Director Marshall McKinney did a phenomenal job in providing top-notch editorial content, making the companys decision that much tougher. He also commended Advertising Director Abe Hayes, Senior Director Tim McManus and the entire Hooked on the Outdoors sales department.
“As much as we love this brand, all of the talented employees involved and everything that weve accomplished, we just cant continue to do it for the love alone. Our advertisers and readers have definitely benefited from our hard work, though unfortunately we havent been able to parlay industry sentiment into realizing the financial resources needed to make Hooked a viable prospect long term for company stake holders.”
ADventure Advertising, LLC will publish a Fishing Annual as well as produce the Shimano Fishing Tour in 2007. The full-service firm is currently the agency of record for both Shimano American Corp.s fishing tackle division and Kiva Designs, and is currently working on several custom publishing projects and proprietary events.
Concluded Espy, ” We will continue to serve the outdoor marketplace which we are so passionate for, simply through different products, so we can prosper as a company.”