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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Christian Beckwith Going 'OuterLocal'

Here's an interesting development in the "where are they now" department: Christian Beckwith, the founding editor of Alpinist magazine (and before that the founder of Tetons-based Mountain Yodel), is unveiling a new venture: an ambitious website called OuterLocal, slated to launch in July.

Beckwith, who started Alpinist in 2002, had floated the idea of a multisport outdoor magazine on the Alpinist/Surfer's Journal/Ski Journal model back in 2004. But the money wasn't there for a print book. Now, more than a year after Alpinist went belly-up (and then was resuscitated by Height of Land Publications), Beckwith is trying to launch his magazine vision on the Internet.

I asked him to describe the new site, and he sent the following blurb/media-kit copy, which I'm reprinting verbatim below:

"Alpinist was born in Jackson, Wyoming, and raised in the mountains of our backyard. The people who worked at our magazine, however, were far more than just climbers. We skied the backcountry for six months a year. We ran the footpaths of the Wind Rivers, mountain biked the Pinnacles of Togwotee Pass and paddled the Snake long before the tourists arrived for summer. We lived in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem because of its wild beauty, its lack of people, its daily opportunity to experience nature on nature’s terms. When we traveled, we sought out the wilds wherever we went, be it surfing in Mexico or hiking in South Africa’s Cederberg or flying the thermals above Switzerland’s Grand Combin. Wherever we went, our love of the wilds extended far beyond the mountains. Problematically, we could find no authentic expression of what we loved in the day’s mainstream publications.

"In 2004, we set out to create a new magazine, one that explored a broad range of adventures with the respect they deserved using the values we had brought to Alpinist. We originally partnered with Patagonia on the idea, then worked to launch it on our own, but the tide was already turning against print, and we were unable to secure the $5 million necessary to launch a title from scratch.

"Since Alpinist’s collapse, I’ve been developing a way to transfer that original idea online. Over the course of more than a dozen road trips across the US, and international journeys to Mexico, Europe, Japan, and Africa, I met with adventure athletes, web developers and entrepreneurs from numerous walks of life and industries. I forged relationships with opinion leaders in climbing, skiing, paddling, surfing, hiking and biking, and built agreements with strategic allies across the outdoor industry. In December I traveled to India, where I secured a website design and development company to execute the site. The result is , a website that takes as its foundation a simple premise: the fullest measure of life is experienced in those moments when we test ourselves against the wildest features of our environment.

"Adventure is the medium through which we understand our lives. Exploring new lands, new waters, encountering nature in ever-deepening ways, we gain n appreciation of ourselves as individuals and as participants in the world. The feel of Scottish granite beneath our crampons, the narrowing of our sightlines as we commit to a steep couloir, the focus as we drop in on a reef break during a late-afternoon session: OuterLocal will celebrate the artisans of the wild in a website as respectful, irreverent and profound as the manner in which we pursue our dreams.

On January 8, noted big-mountain skier and filmmaker Kina Pickett shot our first film. We’ve recently finished design of the home page and user interface and are now working on the interior pages. We expect to launch OuterLocal by July 2010."

Should be interesting!


Anonymous said...

"I forged relationships with opinion leaders in climbing, skiing, paddling, surfing, hiking and biking,..."

"Opinion leaders" in climbing? Who would that be?

Anonymous said...

So CB, having driven Alpinist to its first death and having previously nearly done the same to the AAJ, now seeks to do the same to other sports. Isn't the definition of crazy doing the same thing when it doesn't work?

fc said...

It's funny too compared to the post about Renan and Corey. It seems like maybe CB is a bit behind the times like he is trying to recreate mountain zone. Doesn't seem like anyone is as nearly excited about this. Do you really need a slick website to house great content? Why would you recreate the wheel when there are plenty of places that people already gather?


Dougald MacDonald said...


Don't you think there's an important role for online magazines, where editors solicit and produce great content? Where someone is wading through the millions of FB, Twitter, blog, and forum posts to find the real gems, and then shape and develop these for their readers? Seems to me there's still a great need for edited online publications alongside the entertaining and often-useful free-for-all. I hope so, anyway, as that's definitely the premise of my other site, Colorado MoJo.

Cheers, Dougald

fc said...

I agree with you in part Dougald. I see deep value in a site like Colorado Mojo or Cross Cut(A seattle website)These publications serve a really well defined niche in a way that printed weekly or magazine maybe used to, but even with a tighter definition. But the "One Ring/One Website to rule them all" mentality just doesn't really work. That market is pretty taken up by preexisting, well-branded sites like Outside and NG umbrella. So Christian faces a couple uphill battles if he wants to make ground zero for true adventure on the web -- he's going head to head with two different markets. The standard well established brand names -- NG and Outside. He's also going to take on grassroots sites -- like something really successful and important to the core, say for instance Climbing Narc, or summit post. These two are well established grassroots outlets where either someone like Brian or the masses on Summit Post have sifted through things to bring the best to the top. CB's promising to have mind blowing content -- that's entirely possible. To do that day after day online at a single spot where people religiously gather, to build the social media stature overnight, to convince people that it's worth their time to go through the editing process with CB when they could just post somewhere else or let their video float...well he's put his new business as a disadvantage on several fronts. Also, it seems like the Vertical Carnival crew are creating really good content. So if I'm them, why would I want to go through CB when I could just go have a chat with the North Face and handle my own business.

I think success in the evolving media market place doesn't come from jumping square into the media limelight as CB has a tendency to do. It comes from finding the creases, the places to put down honest roots and grow at a sustainable place, which it would seem the doing.

Thoughts? It's an interesting subject. In regards to the business model and what I believe works -- I've put my money where my mouth is.

Anonymous said...

I agree with fc that the more broadly you define the scope of your media project, you risk watering down the content, competing with Outside and NG (even with NGA tanked), getting away from the core... On the other hand, if those guys are the standard for generalist adventure media, I can't help but think there's definitely room to improve.

All that eloquent language about nature's wildest features aside, the release didn't specify what kind of content was going to be on the new cb site... are we talkin' fully produced "Tin Shed" style exclusive features? A cadre of "Pro Bloggers" with license to sound off at their discretion without editorial control? How much "syndication" of existing online media? Will there be attached forums for the masses? Are they actually going to pay for content?

I think the line between success and failure lies in finding the right mixture.