Friday afternoon, May 23, John Viehman, former publisher of Backpacker magazine, was introduced to the Climbing magazine staff as the new publisher.
Viehman will be moving to Carbondale, Colo., and will begin his new position on June 9.
Climbing has been operating for the last year without a publisher since losing Duane Raleigh in early May 2002. Raleigh's resignation came right before he and Quent Williams, former Climbing production manager, launched their own publishing house, Big Stone Publishing Inc., and acquired Rock & Ice and Trail Runner magazines.
There are certainly similarities between Viehman taking over at Climbing now compared to when he stepped in at Backpacker 17 years ago.
"When I started with Backpacker, it was a small little business that was smaller than Climbing is now. We certainly knew its potential, but never imagined that it would grow three to five times the size of what it was," Viehman told SNEWS.
"Climbing has an ABC audited subscriber base of 50,000 and a 30-year track record of being the leading brand and being a very credible publication representing the climbing community," said Viehman.
Viehman acknowledged Climbing founder and former publisher, Michael Kennedy, who was brought in by Primedia to help them with the search for a new publisher.
"The magazine continues to have a great head of steam and momentum, as well as tremendous respect thanks to Michael's efforts, and it is nice to know he is just down the street if I have any questions," said Viehman.
While Viehman stated his first task as publisher would be to hire a new editor and to ensure he has a full staff to work with before he can get off square one, he paid tribute to the energy and commitment of the current crew who've been through quite a lot in the last year.
"I don't think you could have scripted all that they have been through in the last year, and the fact that Climbing continues to be published at such a high quality is a statement of our team's passion, character, focus and love for the magazine," said Viehman.
The fact that Climbing has a competitor just down the street, and a competitor staffed with many of Climbing's former editors and team, makes Viehman smile.
"I love competition as it is a healthy thing for a business and in this case for the market. Having two teams vying for advertisers and readers will stimulate new thinking and keeps everyone honest," Viehman told us. "There will be some interesting differences between us and them (Rock & Ice) as I look for ways to flex the muscle of a magazine that has been here for a very long time and has a very strong corporate parent with very deep resources."
SNEWS View: One thing's for sure, Climbing just got a shot in the arm and if Rock & Ice was feeling a bit complacent, it is time to wake up, quickly. While Viehman may not be a climber, he knows how to make magazines climb and that's why he's sitting in the hot seat. We guarantee that based on his portfolio of practices, you can expect to see Viehman move Climbing into book publishing perhaps (like he did with Backpacker), television deals and expanded use of the Internet. Primedia, though it is looking to sell off large chunks of its business, appears to be very satisfied with its specialty magazines, which continue to turn a profit, and that means strength of financial resources, research data and other ancillary properties for Viehman to work with. We'd also expect to see Climbing take on more of an advocacy role, as that is something Viehman pushed at Backpacker.