Press Time for the Great Outdoors

Three new adventure magazines, each aimed at a different audience, dive into the competition for the growing leisure market. But their survival is far from guaranteed in a tough media industry.

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

A RUN of new outdoor-travel magazines promising self-discovery, innovative adventure sports, and the pristine wonder of the Rockies has rolled off the presses.

Escape, Over the Edge, and Rocky Mountain Magazine report good early returns as they aim to tap the growing leisure market. But with the United States rebounding from recession, new magazines have only a 50 percent chance of lasting five years, one industry expert says.

``A good first issue does not translate into a longtime success story,'' says Keith Kelly, senior editor for Advertising Age.

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``They have to have the advertising base and the reader base to survive,'' he says.

He points to recent mixed results of Outside and Outdoor Life magazines. While Outside's ad pages grew 2.2 percent in the first six months of 1994 over the same period last year, Outdoor Life's fell 1.2 percent. ESCAPE

``Instead of traveling the shortest distance between two points, the Penan hunter-gatherers of Borneo always look for the most interesting route,'' writes Joe Robinson, editor and publisher of ESCAPE, in the second issue. ``Our goal is to make each issue of ESCAPE as Penan-like as possible ... complete with side trips, friendships, local lingo, musical diversions, and assorted tangents.''

The Santa Monica, Calif.-based magazine, roughly modeled on National Geographic ``but without the science stuff and more lively,'' features world adventure travel - focusing on the journey, one's thoughts and observations, rather than just the destination and activity at hand.

The premiere issue includes a story about trekking in Nepal and an opinion piece on the ``pathetic state of American vacation time.''

The idea for ESCAPE came to Mr. Robinson in 1987 while working on his book ``You're the Boss.''

When Robinson interviewed T.C. Swartz, founder of Society Expeditions, for the book, Swartz bemoaned not finding the right magazine in which to advertise his luxury trips. Smithsonian and Natural History ``were not a direct hit,'' nor were travel magazines, Robinson explains.

``There was a kind of travel that was not being represented, that didn't revolve around shopping, dining, and glitz,'' he says. ``It was tackling travel as participation, global citizenry, and discovery.''

The readership is mostly 25- to 55-year-olds and ranges from students to affluent subscribers. ``A lot probably had stamp collections as kids and liked geography,'' Robinson adds.

Circulation is now 50,000. The magazine, which debuted in January, publishes quarterly but plans to go bimonthly and expand overseas.

Early returns are promising, says Robinson, a former music reporter and advertising executive. The magazine has gotten many ``fan letters, groupie letters that are not like letters to the editor,'' he says.

Over the Edge

A sailboard ride in hurricanelike conditions and a frustrated call to a rock-climbing instructor: These experiences helped Michael Bane decide to start a magazine for extreme sports.

He and others he knew were bored with mundane sports and interested in pushing the limits of their athletic skills. Yet there was no easy way to learn about many nontraditional adventure sports, Mr. Bane explains.

Over the Edge, his Boulder, Colo.-based bimonthly published by HG Publications of Hollywood, Calif., attempts to solve this quandary. Its first issue includes articles on downhill speed mountain biking and snowboarding on Oregon's Mt. Hood.

``These are not stunts; they are sports that require training and serious concentration,'' says executive editor Bane.

``I wanted a grittier magazine, more for the MTV generation, a funkier look. Like taking your father bungee jumping, not trout fishing,'' he says.

Sections called ``Cutting Edge,'' ``Training Edge,'' ``Winning Edge,'' and ``Traveling Edge'' add to the rougher feel of this magazine, whose comic-book-like cover shows a parachutist high above San Diego.

Aware of appearing too he-man, the magazine is seeking out female writers, photographers, and extreme athletes to profile.

It is targeted at people in their late 20s to early 40s with a household income of $100,000 - a ``very athletic group that is drawn by gadget lust,'' Bane says. He expects a 60-40 percent split of male and female readers.

The first issue, which hit stores in the US and Canada in mid-June, has been well-received, Bane says, though ``real numbers'' aren't in yet. Next month, the magazine will solicit by mail and advertise on ESPN-2 network, where extreme sports have gotten a lot of exposure.

For the long term, Bane, who has launched several small magazines and written 14 books, hopes to make deeper inroads into Canada.

Rocky Mountain Magazine

Since first strapping on skis in Winter Park, Colo., in 1946, Harry Myers has been drawn to the alpine beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

Now, almost 50 years later, the Denver native has started Rocky Mountain Magazine, devoted to mountain activities and issues that affect them in the range that spans six states and Alberta.

``I wanted something that was practical for the 80 million annual visitors to the region,'' says Mr. Myers, the Denver-based magazine's publishing director and a group vice president of Cowles Magazines Inc.

Some offerings in the glossy premiere issue are where and how to pursue fishing, hiking, biking, camping, climbing, and rafting; and Tom Brokaw's recounting of a ``guerrilla-style'' adventure with Yvon Chouinard, a climber, equipment designer, and founder of Patagonia Inc.

The typical reader, says Myers, a former group publisher at Knapp Communications Corporation and president/publisher of Scientific American, will likely be about 35 and fairly affluent. The male-female ratio, he expects, will be 65 percent to 35 percent, and within a few years, 65 percent of readers will live outside the Rocky Mountain region.

Though focused on only one geographical area, ``Rocky'' is geared to the international market. After less than two months, it has some 3,000 subscribers, Myers says. He projects it will reach 10,000 when final returns come in from the first issue's 100,000 distribution to stores in almost all states.

Cowles will soon test-mail to 100,000 US and Canadian homes, with a full-scale mailing in December, by which time Rocky will have gone bimonthly. Next year, Myers hopes to expand overseas.

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