TWO NEW TITLES JOIN RANKS OF ADVENTURE TRAVEL BOOKS: TIMES MIRROR, NAT'L GEOGRAPHIC SEND ENTRIES TO BATTLE 'OUTSIDE'

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The pup tent is replacing the penthouse suite for many well-heeled travelers, a shift that spells opportunity for a burgeoning new category of magazines.

Two more titles will enter the fray next month when the National Geographic Society introduces National Geographic Adventure and Times Mirror Magazines unveils Outdoor Explorer, with three issues planned for the first year (AA, Nov. 16). They join a category long dominated by Mariah Media's Outside.

There could be enough advertising and reader support to go around. Some 98 million Americans took an adventure vacation in the past five years, according to the Travel Industry Association of America. Mountain climbing expeditions doubled in the past two years, while overseas adventure travel grew 89%.

"We came out of the '80s and the obsession for things, into the new balance of the '90s, where people are motivated by experiences and participation," said Scott Crystal, VP-publishing director at the National Geographic Society.

ASPIRATIONAL, ACCESSIBLE TRIPS

National Geographic Adventure will present aspirational as well as accessible trips, all backed with lots of service information. The spinoff will include articles on remote destinations such as Tibet and profiles on explorers. The first issue features a profile of Robert Ballard, the Navy commander who located the wreckage of the Titanic.

"At any given time, the society has hundreds of photographers and researchers dispatched around the world on various expeditions. That infrastructure is atypical in publishing, and gives us the ability to do stories that others can't," said Mr. Crystal. John Rasmus, former editor of Outside and Men's Journal -- Wenner Media's entry in the field -- is editor of National Geographic Adventure.

ADVERTISER ENTHUSIASM

Advertisers are enthusiastic about the category. The first issue of National Geographic Adventure includes 70 ad pages from marketers such as L.L. Bean Inc., Land Rover North America, Nike, Polo/Ralph Lauren Corp. and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. The initial rate base is 200,000. Four issues will be produced in 1999 and six next year, with a goal of going monthly in 2001.

Category leader Outside has a rate base of 525,000, and the monthly carried 1,276.2 ad pages last year. Other category players are also making moves to grab a bigger piece of the pie. Hearst Magazines' Sports Afield with its March issue completes a transformation from a hunting-and-fishing monthly to a blood-sports-free outdoors title. And Miller Sports Group last year changed the title of Snow Country to the all-season Mountain Sports & Living, published seven times a year.

With the June issue, Outside Executive Editor Hal Epsen will assume the editor's role. National Magazine Award winner Mark Bryant, editor for the past nine years and with Outside for 17, announced he was leaving last month.

'OUTSIDE' A CATALYST

"We've really been a catalyst for this whole movement. I really look around and think, 'Look what Outside has spawned,' " said the title's founder, Larry Burke.

Steve Klein, partner-media director at Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, New York, believes advertisers recognize the adventure travel trend as real because many business executives fit the profile of the magazines' readers.

"It definitely rings true. The average Joe goes to Disney World and the white-collar guys take ever more exotic vacations. The guys buying ads believe in this

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