NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Asked about the possibility of broadening the audience and mission of Backpacker, Publisher Kent Ebersole shrugs off the suggestion as one of its trail-taming readers might a gnat. "I don't think people who aren't enthusiastic about the outdoors have a huge desire to read this magazine. What's the point?"
His dismissive response underlines what anybody who pages through the magazine will realize within seconds: Backpacker devotes precisely zero percent of its energies toward embracing newbies. And that may well be the reason the title has thrived at a time when comparable niche mags have sagged. Backpacker lives to serve a hardened, involved core of outdoor enthusiasts, inspiring them with gear demos, trail recommendations and more.
|A continued focus on the hardest of the hardcore outdoors enthusiasts, in part via events designed to put them into close contact with marketing partners.|
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While Backpacker grew paid circulation this year, the numbers aren't entirely rosy. Mr. Ebersole said that the final '09 tally will reveal an ad-page drop, "possibly double-digit." Nonendemic advertisers -- the automotive and food marketers that made up about 30% of the title's ad base -- pulled back more than endemic ones did. "Fortunately, the attrition in the magazine hasn't been 'we won't advertise.' It's been 'We're paring back a little bit,'" he noted.
Online helped close the gap. In 2009, Backpacker.com has seen sharp spikes in both page views (it logged 2.4 million in August, up from 1.8 million in August 2008) and time spent (slightly below seven minutes per visit). But what really fueled the Backpacker's growth was its events, particularly the 11th iteration of the "Get Out More" tour. For the seven-month program, Backpacker put intrepid outdoorfolk Sheri and Randy Propster in a Subaru (a sponsor, naturally) and pointed them at five outdoor festivals and 55 outdoor retailers. At each event, they shared tips and pushed product. "We couldn't have done it better ourselves," said Ms. Neubauer, who credits the tour with familiarizing retailers with Woolrich's performance apparel.
|2.||Better Homes & Gardens|
Ironically, Backpacker may be one of the few media entities not entirely eager for the down economy to lift. After all, it hasn't been uncommon over the past 18 months for active-lifestyle buffs to pass up trips to exotic locales in favor of pursuits only a car ride away.
"It's easy to go hiking," Mr. Ebersole said. "That said, we're not going to be too upset when everything gets back to where it was."