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Friday, August 15, 2008

Publishing Follies

Of all the things I saw at Outdoor Retailer while reporting for the trade show's daily paper, the most surprising was the news that a West Vriginia–based team is planning to launch a new climbing magazine this fall. Dead Point Magazine is a glossy bimonthly that will take aim at young climbers, with its first issue slated for October 15. With the tiny climbing market already crowded by four national magazines—Alpinist, Climbing, Rock and Ice, and Urban Climber—and magazine sales generally down, observers must ask: Are these guys smoking crack?

Maybe, maybe not. Dead Point hopes to gain a foothold through free distribution at climbing gyms and retailers, along with a hefty online presence. “We are definitely going after the youth market,” founder Matt Stark told me as we watched the Mammut Bouldering Championships. Stark explained that his magazine would have an “edgy look” and would take more chances with feature stories than the existing magazines do. “We’re not going shy away from risqué articles,” he said. “Our second issue is going to turn some heads.”

The free distribution model hasn't been tried yet by a national climbing magazine, and it makes good sense. Free distribution works by printing many copies and placing them where the target market is likely to pick them up, thus providing a large audience for advertisers. Dead Point will boost its readership by posting each issue online immediately, with hyperlinked ads. The climbing market seems ripe for this approach. The number of climbers visiting gyms each day dwarves the subscriber lists of all four existing magazines combined. For various reasons, these mags have yet to convince more climbers to fork over the ducats for a subscription. In fact, the only time many climbers likely see Rock and Ice or Urban Climber is when they scan the free copies on the couch or in the bathroom of their local gym. Why not target these folks directly?

Dead Point is clearly going after Urban Climber, which also targets the youth audience but charges $4.99 for a single copy or $17.97 for a seven-issue subscription. (Urban Climber is published by New York-based Skram Media, which also publishes Climbing and, one of my employers.) Urban Climber is well-established and appears to be well-liked; the latest editions are packed with ads. For Dead Point to steal this business, it will have to provide superb editorial content as well as mass distribution, because advertisers attach extra value to customers willing to pay for good editorial. Advertisers also must admire a magazine's content and feel good about appearing in its pages. So, while the new magazine's business model is intriguing, we'll have to see the first several issues before getting a better sense of whether the Dead Point will stick.


KatieGirlBlue said...

Hey, Dougald,

Nice to see you at OR. I've been looking into Deadpoint, too, for obvious reasons, and find myself wondering about their use of "bimonthly." Bi is so often misused (a quick google search reveals completely opposing definitions for the same word/usage), I want to know, do they mean twice a month or every two months? I mean, as shocked as I am that anyone would enter the market with a new print climbing mag right now, I'd be doubly surprised if they were to come out twice a month....

Dougald MacDonald said...

They're launching with six printed editions a year. The website is already pretty active.

Anonymous said...

definitely smoking crack, but maybe it'll work.

Anonymous said...

think Dead Point is folly?? pls be my guest and see Escalando, Chile's climbing magazine.

yes: Chile; climbing magazine.



Dougald MacDonald said...

And a gorgeous magazine it is, Nacho. Escalando is one of the best in the world, I'd say.

Julian said...


Both usages are apparently kosher, but strictly speaking, bi-monthly should probably refer to every other, and semi-monthly should refer to twice a month. Or whatever.

To the topic at hand: I hope DeadPoint succeeds. I'm a fan of Matt as a person and wish him the best. I also have no interest in paying for a magazine when I can get content as good or better on line for free.

Anonymous said...

I am really interested to see how this pans out. I think it theory it is a good concept and yes advertisers will like that there might be more readership. However, as an advertiser getting your name out there is important and that will happen with more readership, but you want to get your name out there to people who are actually going to buy your stuff.

That is what makes the people who buy climbing magazines such a good target they already know they are willing and are spending money on climbing stuff.

If the market is younger as well that could be a challenge as it is harder for this crowd to buy in my opinion.

Either way I am excited for the mag