Active Interest Media has completed an agreement to purchase Skram Media’s Climbing, UCTV, and Urban Climber brands, adding them to the recently formed Outdoor Group, which currently includes Backpacker, SNEWS®, and National Parks Interactive, a tourism-focused media network that produces print publications and websites for national park vacationers.
“Skram is exactly the kind of enthusiast-centric media business we seek to add to our company,” said AIM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III. “Climbing and Urban Climber are category leaders and committed corporate citizens, and both have significant growth potential when paired with our existing brands and supported by our digital expertise and publishing resources. We’re very excited about the opportunity this deal presents to bring more dynamic solutions to the Outdoor Group’s trade and consumer partners.”
Mark Crowther, current publisher of Skram Media, will continue as publisher of the climbing titles, reporting to Kent Ebersole, group publisher of the AIM Outdoor Group. “For me, this is the realization of a dream of what a media company can be going forward, rather than just an announcement of print magazines changing ownership,” Crowther told us. “AIM is a standout as a modern media company in how it leverages content across different platforms, and it has an unrivaled management team that I am honored to be able to join and learn from.”
Joining the team is Dougald MacDonald (pictured right), former publisher of Rock & Ice and current associate editor of the American Alpine Journal. He will serve as editorial director of the climbing titles and editor in chief of Climbing.
“I’ve been a freelancer since we sold Rock & Ice eight years ago, and I’ve been enjoying that lifestyle very much,” MacDonald told SNEWS. “But this is such a unique and extraordinary opportunity to join such a talented team. It is, to me, irresistible to be able to take something that is very good and, with resources and new ideas, make it better.”
The editorial, sales, and design teams from Urban Climber and Climbing will move into the newly expanded Outdoor Group offices located in Boulder, Colo., by the end of June. Crowther will remain in New York. Jeff Achey, a long-time Climbing magazine veteran and current acting editor, will move to a new role of features editor in August.
MacDonald was part of the ownership group of North South Publications, which sold Rock & Ice (where he was also the editor) and Trail Runner magazine (which he co-founded with Brian Metzler) to Duane Raleigh and Quent Williams of Big Stone Publishing in May 2002 (Click here to read our story, “Rock & Ice and Trail Runner sold to former Climbing mag publisher.”). Since then, MacDonald has written for numerous magazines, including Climbing and Backpacker, as well as authored books and blogs on climbing and mountaineering.
Crowther (pictured right) started Skram in 2004 and launched Urban Climber that same year. In 2005, Skram debuted a climbing film and video network — UCTV — which operates in a format similar to You Tube. On Dec. 31, 2006, Skram acquired Climbing from Primedia (Click here to read the news release of that acquisition on SNEWS).
Underscoring the opportunity that this acquisition represents to both the Skram climbing titles and to AIM’s existing Outdoor Group properties, Jonathan Dorn, general manager of the Outdoor Group, told SNEWS, “Backpacking is a gateway to climbing, and if you look at the various sports represented in the outdoors, it is hard to argue that there are not two more closely linked activities in terms of methods, locations, ethics, and audience than climbing and backpacking.
“By virtue of this acquisition, we have a growing footprint of publications and websites that work extremely well together to serve a very core group of outdoor enthusiasts,” said Dorn. “When it comes to mountain and trail sports, the Outdoor Group speaks to more influencers, more authentically, than anyone else.”
Added Ebersole, “As long as I have been at Backpacker, there have been very few days where we have not all thought how great it would be to have Climbing as part of the editorial family. To have Urban Climber now, too, which is reaching an audience in its early 20s, gives us a vehicle as a marketing, sales and editorial group to be able to reach that younger demographic, something the outdoor industry has collectively identified as vital to its future.”
Dorn, Ebersole and MacDonald told SNEWS some of what the climbing industry can expect to see from the acquisition in the near-term and long-term:
Research – AIM is using its research capabilities immediately by launching a project focused on brand awareness and digital content in the climbing market. The results of that survey will be shared with the industry at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2010.
Mobile and web – Backpacker has more than doubled its website traffic since 2007, and Dorn said he sees a benefit for both Climbing and Urban Climber websites by applying the same resources and principles AIM applied to Backpacker.
Events – AIM’s marketing department will use its experience in delivering value-added programs so its partners can reach desired audiences in many different ways. The Get Out More Tour and Adventures NYC, both Backpacker programs, create immediate opportunities for the Climbing and Urban Climber teams to get involved with events and the marketing department.
Trade Reporting – Climbing and Urban Climber will leverage the expertise and industry-leading coverage SNEWS represents to provide more coverage of what is going on in the climbing trade to retailers, reps and manufacturers.
“We are also looking forward to applying Backpacker’s gear-reviewing methodology—the apples-to-apples testing, the long-term field evaluation, and the geographic diversity—to the reviews in these magazines and websites,” Dorn said. “Our goal is to create best-in-class product evaluation, and that requires not only significant testing time but also a set of procedures that the industry and readership fully trusts.”
For MacDonald, he said he sees one of his primary goals to increase the amount of helpful information for climbers at all levels, from beginners to experts. “We will do that at a level of authority and thoroughness that has never been done before in a climbing magazine,” MacDonald told SNEWS. “In the editorial for Climbing and Urban Climber we will be aiming squarely at the hundreds of thousands of weekend warriors who are not being served. We will, of course, still cover elite climbers, but in terms of providing destination and helpful info our content will be aimed at inspiring and enabling the core.”