"This is something consistent with our brand identity and our reader's concerns," said Paul Rolnick, consumer marketing director at Outside. "We are inviting people to go online and communicate with the magazine that way. We want to establish a paperless relationship. It's the responsible and environmental thing to do."
The initiative, which comes on the heels of an expanded industry recycling campaign, will eliminate the printing of 20 million subscription cards and save an estimated 1,500 trees, according to Outside.
Because Outside's insert cards are intricate, multicolored affairs, the publisher will also save money from reducing their use. "Of course, this is of tremendous benefit to us. The expense of making 20 million cards is not insignificant," said Mr. Rolnick, who declined to share what that expense was. "But we have to leverage that against lost business from not using the cards. Overall, it's good for us and our readership."
The web's effectiveness at generating subscriptions underwhelmed the industry for many of its earlier years, but like others, Outside said that dynamic is improving.
"We've had huge gains online," Mr. Rolnick said. "Year over year, subscriptions have been up 35%. We intend to replace our entire business online as this trend continues, and eventually communicate entirely in a paperless way with our subscribers."
Outside recently reported average paid and verified circulation of 672,918 for the second half of last year, up 1.3% from second-half 2006, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Subscriptions, which represent more than 80% of total paid and verified circulation, were up 12.6%.
Subscription cards will still fall freely from all Outside copies sold on newsstands, where they remain an effective source of new subscriptions.
And Mr. Rolnick declined to comment when asked whether sibling publication Outside's Go, aimed at affluent outdoor lifestyles, would also reduce its use of inserts.