Feb 22, 2021 - Economy

Exclusive: Pocket Outdoor Media raises $150 million from Sequoia Heritage


Pocket Outdoor Media, the 4-year-old media company that's home to 22 active lifestyle publications and several technology groups, announced a Series B funding round led by Sequoia Heritage to fuel acquisitions.

Driving the news: The company is also announcing the purchase of five outdoor sports media and tech companies and is changing its name to reflect the branding of one of those companies, "Outside."

Details: Effective Monday, Pocket Outdoor Media will become "Outside" and will be the new home to Outside Integrated Media, the producer of Outside magazine, OutsideStudios, and the travel business Outside GO. It will also be acquiring:

  • Gaia GPS, a mobile mapping and navigation application for backcountry adventurers and professionals
  • athleteReg, one of the world’s largest event registration platforms serving runners, triathletes, cyclists, and skiers
  • Peloton Magazine, a cycling magazine
  • Outside TV, a video provider for adventure sports and outdoor lifestyle content.

The deals will add around 180 people to the company's roughly 240-person existing employee base.

  • The Series B is being led by Sequoia, with JAZZ Ventures, Zone 5 Ventures, and NEXT Ventures also participating.
  • The company currently is home to over 20 publications, including Yoga Journal, SKI, BACKPACKER, Women’s Running, Better Nutrition, and more.
  • With the acquisition, the company will have roughly 1 million paid subscribers, says Robin Thurston, CEO of Outside and former CEO of MapMyFitness.
  • The average revenue per subscriber is around $70 annually.

Catch up quick: Thurston first started building what is now Outside in 2018 when he acquired a few niche outdoor lifestyle brands, like Triathlete, Women’s Running, PodiumRunner and others.

  • The company built a personalized content management system platform for the active lifestyle category and began building an events business. Over the course of last year, it picked up several publications to add to its collection.
  • In June, it acquired the publisher of Yoga Journal, SKI, Climbing, BACKPACKER and others in conjunction with its $14 million Series A funding round, led by JAZZ Venture Partners with participation from NEXT VENTURES and Zone 5 Ventures.
  • In the fall, it purchased the publisher of Rock & Ice, Trail Runner, and Gym Climber magazines and websites, and later bought Paleo Magazine and its assets to add to its nutrition vertical.

The big picture: Outside is perhaps one of the most successful media transition stories, having converted most of its print subscription magazine companies into one integrated digital subscription company.

  • "Where print got in trouble in the past, was that premium content was released for free on the web, so there wasn't an incentive for people to buy the magazine," says Thurston.
  • Thurston says Outside is reducing the frequency of its print publications (available only to digital subscribers) and increasing the production quality.
  • Moving forward Outside will include a single sign-on authentication feature across all the sites that will allow subscribers to access any of the content or tools in its portfolio with a single sign-in.
  • It plans to launch a feed-like personalization layer that will allow subscribers to tap into personalized content recommendations across all of its brands. Thurston says over 60% of the company's 70 million monthly unique visitors "does at least 3 activities."

Bottom line: “We’re investing in Outside because the management team has warmly embraced the future of information and entertainment on the Internet," says Sequoia partner Michael Moritz, who will be joining the Outside board of directors.

  • "Just like Netflix and Amazon Prime — Outside will create and distribute distinctive content to a worldwide audience on any internet device."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect employee additions amounting to 180, not 240, per clarification from a Pocket Outdoor Media spokesperson. It has also been updated to reflect that the name of the investor is Sequoia Heritage.

Go deeper