Jon Dorn was promoted Jan. 15 to the position of executive editor of
Backpacker magazine, while John Viehman, who was recently demoted to
"editorial director" from publisher, and Tom Shealey, the magazine's
former executive editor were fired. Neither Shealey nor Viehman was
available for comment.
Tom Beusse, senior vice president of Rodale's Men's Health and Sports
Group (Backpacker, Bicycling, Mountain Bike, Rodale's Scuba, and
Runner's World), also announced that Jay Heinrichs, formerly deputy
editor for Outside magazine, has been named the Sports Group editorial
Dorn told SNEWSÂ®Â that while some changes and additions to editorial
content and direction are likely, subscribers and advertisers shouldn't
worry about Backpacker's direction.
"We are not going to mess around and turn a product upside down that
is, by and large working well," said Dorn. "What changes we will make
are going to be pretty subtle."
Growing the reach of the magazine is certainly on the mind of Dorn, who
told us that he believes the backpacking audience is much larger than
the core group Backpacker currently reaches.
"Depending on which numbers you rely on, our market penetration may be
as small as 6 percent of the backpacking public," said Dorn, "So if we
can bump that percentage up, it would be a fantastic achievement for us
and the industry we are in, because as we grow so grows the larger
audience that our industry is speaking to."
Expect more fun and some fresh attitude from Backpacker too if Dorn has his way.
"We have a story coming up on the best outhouses in North America,
which may seem somewhat unusual for Backpacker, but who among us has
not been on the trail and stumbled on a truly magnificent throne with a
view that demands remembering," says Dorn. (Ed. note: and he just got
through telling us about the "breath of fresh air" Backpacker would be
injecting into the experience of writing and reading.)
Dorn also told us he takes very seriously Backpacker's tag line -- "The
Magazine of Wilderness Travel." Of course, he also realizes that
"wilderness travel" has a broader meaning than just backpacking, so
expect to see a few more paddling stories, perhaps some backcountry
skiing bits, and even a few snowshoeing angles. Mountaineering will
also find increased coverage, with a special area being created on
Backpacker's web site dedicated to mountaineering.
"We recognize that our audience is doing some backpacking as well as
other things, and we intend to embrace some of the other activities and
stretch our formerly conventional boundaries without alienating our
core audience," said Dorn.
"Given the talent we have in our editorial staff and the energy we
have, I am feeling we can build a bit of buzz about the magazine
because we will have stories that people can remember," added Dorn.
Our congratulations to Jon! This marks the first time in well over a
decade that Backpacker has a real opportunity to re-energize itself and
do some necessary freshening up of its content and image, and reach out
to a broader audience. If it can do that successfully, it will be good
for everyone -- readers and advertisers.