Bundles are a hot topic right now and Outside+ is a fascinating example. A few months ago, the Outside Magazine organization announced they were welcoming 20 new publications including Trail Runner, Velo News and Yoga Journal to their family. More recently, they launched a suite of new features such as training plans and workouts, access to the Gaia GPS Premium app and discounts for outdoor events available with the new Outside+ membership.
By bundling together content, discounts and other benefits, Outside is building a membership that more fully delivers on their promise to inspire active participation in the world outside
I recently interviewed Tommy O’Hare, SVP Business Development and Licensing for Outside for the inaugural D2C Summit, a new conference I co-created with Global Media Association, FIPP, and want to share that conversation with you here on the podcast. In this conversation, he shared the journey of rolling up this bundle of benefits to support the goals and challenges of Outside’s most engaged members.
Listen to the podcast here:
Building a Subscription Bundle to Better Deliver on Your Forever Promise with Tommy O’Hare, SVP of Outside
Bundles are a hot topic right now and Outside+ is a fascinating example. Outside announced they were welcoming twenty new publications including Trail Runner, VeloNews and Yoga Journal to their family. They launched a suite of new features such as training plans and workouts, access to the Gaia GPS Premium app, and discounts for outdoor events available with their new Outside+ membership.
By bundling together content discounts and other benefits, Outside is building a membership that more fully delivers on its promise to inspire active participation in the world outside. I interviewed Tommy O’Hare, the SVP Business Development and Licensing for Outside with the inaugural D2C Summit, a new conference I co-created with global media association, FIPP. I want to share that conversation with you here on the show. In this conversation, Tommy shared the journey of rolling up this bundle of benefits to support the goals and challenges of Outside’s most engaged members. I hope you enjoy it.
Thank you, Robbie. Thanks for having me. I am excited to talk to you
Me, too. I have been looking forward to this. Let us start with Outside and what its mission is.
We represent the active living and the healthy lifestyle categories. Those are huge categories across the globe now, and they have only accelerated during COVID. There are some of the few activities that people have been able to do to stay active, as well as people have been much more inclined to pay attention to their health during COVID. We add value within this ecosystem by providing premium content and providing it to the right user at the right time on the right device. It is an exciting journey. We have begun the journey. We have made a lot of progress in terms of personalization and making it easier for people to find the content. We have got a long way to go and an exciting journey to take.
Let us talk about the journey, especially the part that you have been on. Can you take me back to late 2019 and share a little bit about how you came to join the Outside team?
I have known Robin Thurston, who is our CEO, for several years. Robin is the previous cofounder of MapMyFitness, which was sold to Under Armour, and then was also the CEO of a big tech startup in the DNA space out here in Silicon Valley called Helix. He has had experience as a professional cyclist. He worked in a media business working for Reuters and some other financial news businesses. He saw an opportunity related to content and the active living and the healthy lifestyle space.
[bctt tweet=”You want to touch the life of every cyclist, runner, or yoga person. You want to make sure you have all the right elements of content and utility for them. – @Taffysk8, @outsidemagazine”]
I have always been involved in the digital media and the sports side of things. We got to talking and he told me about what he had done with his investment in the previous iteration of our company called Pocket Outdoor Media, which owned four brands in more the endurance space, Triathlete Magazine, Women’s Running, VeloNews, PodiumRunner and some experiential cycling events.
He started talking to me about the gap that he saw in this space, in particular around content. He thought that there could be a better job with it, making the publications more digitized and making the content better in terms of the quality of it as well as the volume of it. Also, developing a digitally focused business and capturing synergies by using a common platform and common sales systems, and then ultimately building out a new digital subscription. That was very exciting to me. I was inspired by Robin and by the opportunity that is going. That is how I have ended up with Outside.
It is interesting to hear about that vision and what Robin and you saw as the gap between digital and print. Also in terms of solving the full problem or helping the customer and the reader achieve their full goals using tools that might not have been available when some of those publications were first started.
It is interesting right now. The first part of our journey has been about how do we build the business and how do we possibly serve every single vertical of active living and the healthy lifestyle space. A big part of our journey now is around technology and a lot of that is around personalization. The ultimate goal is how do we make someone’s life better with the content that we have. A lot of that is improving the content that we have, the quality and the quantity of the content. Another piece of that journey is how do you get that content to the right user at the right time?
A lot of that is around personalization and things that you do with software. A lot of it also is around having the various different types of technology that you need. For us, we own a GPS mapping company called Gaia. At some point, people need their content served to them directly as they are hiking. Other times, it is more passive. They have finished a workout and we would be able to present them with recovery information, food information, and nutrition information. It is exciting stuff for us.
One of the things I think about a lot is that concept of you have this forever promise to your members, “I am going to help you achieve your goals. I am going to help you solve your problems. I am going to help you understand the world around you so you can make better decisions. I am going to help you get the most enjoyment out of your hobbies and passions.” Often, delivering on that promise starts with media or content, but there are other ways to deliver on that offering. Some of them are other products and services, but some of them are how that content is delivered. Increasingly, the how it is delivered is part of the product. It is not just tech support and IT. It is core to the experience.
It is interesting right now the interplay between probably a media person would think of a product as the content. It’s literally the editorial content, the texts, the photos, the videos, and that type of thing. If you are talking to a technology-focused company, it is about the software, the hardware, and those different types of things that are out there right now. We blend the two of them together.
For us, there is so much content that is pushed to people. It is difficult for them to find the information that they need to make their lives better, or there is a lot of data that is pushed to them from the various fitness trackers or the other things out there that are tracking biometrical data. For us, we want to combine those two types of things and make it so simple for the user that they do not have to go out and actively find the content. They do not have to figure out what they need for content.
We want to present them with content that surprises and delights them. We do that by making their lives better. You can think of an example at some point where we might be pulling in the data from a fitness tracker or something like that. Looking at that data and realizing like, “How does the user run? What is happening in the running patterns?” We show them some articles about injury prevention because we see they might be running too much or they finished their workout and, “Here, you should have this nutritional supplement right now. We see you have not been working out recently. Here are some articles on mental health and things to get you going again.” That gets exciting for us and gets us out of bed and gets us fired up every single day to go to work.
What I like about that example is we are talking about bundles and some organizations think of bundles as, “Let us pile on some benefits, whatever we happen to have available.” What I like about the way you are describing this is the different elements of the bundle work together in concert. You talk about the article to support what you are learning from the tracker. That is important for people to keep in mind as they are thinking about their own bundles and what should go in the bundle and what should not go into the bundle. I know that is something you have been thinking about a lot. Can you talk to me a little bit about the acquisitions you have made and the decisions you have made over the years, and how you thought about what should be part of this bundle, this offering or this membership?
We know we want to change people’s lives. We know that we represent the active living and healthy lifestyle category. We know the next step behind that is, how do you get that right content to the right user at the right time? We looked at our assets and did not have a ton of assets that were in the portfolio. As we started to build out the bundle, we looked for various things to complete it and the various touchpoints of someone like a cyclist. What is their day like and what are the things that they need? Editorial content and video content is a big part of that. Those are the things that they probably are going to be consuming most of the time off of the bike.
You look at the other things that a cyclist might be. A lot of times, it is training plans that need route mapping and things like that. If they are going to go out in the backcountry, they need topographical maps and things like that. That is where Gaia GPS comes in. They are going to be participating in events so we own an event registration company that focuses on endurance events like running events, biking events, that type of thing.
We own a finish line photo company called FinisherPix that uses artificial intelligence to read the data in the photos and match it up with a database of runners and cyclists, and then matches it up with a photo that is in their system. There are discounts on that. We own a participatory event company called Roll Massif that has road biking events, gravel biking events, mountain biking events, and things like that. We own a streaming service that also is available on your television called Outside Television. We start to look at all those things and you say, “You want to touch every part of the cyclist or the runner or the yoga person’s life.” We want those to be in the bundle.
You want to make sure you have all the right elements of content and utility for them. Probably that is the technology. You then look at the economics. What can you make of this? You want to be able to provide a significant value for the end-user. We put all that content and those utilities together in a bundle and right now, it is called Outside+. It is $99 a year but it is over $350 of value for the end-user if they had gone and bought the services on their own. First of all, it is always about the user. Secondarily, we know if we make a great product for the user and we work on the economics, we can provide a lot of financial value for that user too.
A lot of the delegates are from the print world. You talked a lot about how your vision and Robin’s vision, a lot of it was about digital and expanding the relationship that was launched by these print publications. What do you think of the role of print in your bundle and your member experience?
We started looking at print in the beginning, and what got us thinking about the bundle was people still value print. It is a great experience. When the magazine shows up in your mailbox, you put it in your hands or it is a newspaper. For me, I love reading the print newspaper when I get on an airplane. I’m undistracted and it feels great. I love everything about it. We knew that people like print and pretty much the business model for us seemed like it did not work. That is selling print subscriptions on an individual basis. We wanted print to be a part of the bundle so we started looking at various things and said, “Print works when it is bundled with other things and can offset some of the costs there.” We believe in print.
[bctt tweet=”Now is one of the greatest periods ever for creativity. Everybody can be a creator and distributor. Everybody can essentially build their own mini content business. – @Taffysk8, @outsidemagazine”]
We will always have print but in order to make it work for us, it needs to be part of either what we call a vertical pass, which we often sell like for VeloNews, our cycling publication. You can still get VeloNews the print publication, but you have to buy the brand pass. That gets you access to all the content for VeloNews behind the paywall, all the digital content there, and you get the print magazine. You can also subscribe to Outside+ and get all of the benefits that we have and get two magazines and two books as part of that bundle. We believe in the print business. We think it needs to be part of a bigger subscription or bundle.
For people who subscribe to the print edition but are getting the full pass bundled in, how do you onboard them so that they learn about the other benefits and hopefully, engage more fully in what they are paying for?
I have had a lot of experience building digital subscriptions and bundles and things like that. You have to communicate a lot with the end-user at the end of the day or your purchase or however you want to describe it. When you are marketing to them, you need to explain carefully what this is. When you are sending it through the purchase flow, you need to be careful and call out every single thing there. We try to make it easy for them.
Print is when you come in and your purchase, and you are selecting all the benefits and how you are going to get them. We put print there but you are going through a flow of all the different benefits that are there. It is very intentional how we do that flow in the purchase process so people can see the benefits. We know from the data that we have what users want and what the user benefits are at the end of the day. It is ordered. We pay close attention to things like the color palettes that we are using and things like that to help it make it easier for the user to understand where the benefits are and explain them.
How do you use color palettes?
User testing to see things like what do users respond to more and things like that. We have bright and vibrant yellow oranges from Outside. It is there. We have noticed that has made a pretty interesting difference in terms of people paying attention to different things on the pages. We can literally see it in the data based upon where the yellow is and is not.
When they are looking at the screen, wherever the yellow is, that is where their eye goes so you might focus the most important message there.
It is a little bit like the Google page where they spend an inordinate amount of time selecting the blue or the purple for the links that are clicked.
We are talking narrowly about what you have done. I know you are partnering as well. You guys have been so busy with acquisitions and partnerships and thinking broadly about how to deliver on your promise to your members of helping them get the most out of the outdoors and an active lifestyle. What considerations should an organization keep in mind as they layer in more value for their members in terms of when to acquire, when to partner, when to build it yourself, and how to think about what should be in and what should not be in the bundle?
It comes down to looking at what do you need to serve your end-users at the end of the day, and what is the best way to fulfill that. For us, it is a lot of looking at the decision between acquiring or a partnership is around synergies and around the level of control that we need to have, and can we add value to something or to a business that we buy? There are certain instances where we have done quite a bit of acquisition things where we saw a great opportunity for us to have synergies. With Active Interest Media, a big media publication in the active living and healthy lifestyles business, it made a lot of sense for us to work with them and acquire them because we could put their content onto our platform. We could consolidate sales teams.
It filled out our bundle and things like that. We needed to have control over the business to do that. The partnership would not make sense in that scenario. We have a relationship with USA Triathlon right now. USA Triathlon used to have a member benefit. That was a magazine that was there. They realized like, “We are not in the magazine business here. We are in the business of serving our users with events and other different benefits that are out there.”
In Outside, you have a magazine called Triathlete. We paired up together. We took a look at that and realize, “There are a lot of great synergies. We do not need two different triathlon magazines in the ecosystem. Let us put them together, consolidate costs, have better content.” At the end of the day, the end user wins. They get a better editorial publication. It is good for both our businesses. USA Triathlon is able to reduce costs and improve revenue. We have been able to do the same thing on our side. It is a matter of looking at each situation and the unique instance and figuring out what is it that you need for your users and then what is the level of control that you want to have.
We have been talking about the broader picture. I know you have talked about the bigger ecosystem for the outside lifestyle. I want to take us to the other side or the inward-facing part of your business. I have seen organizations that have moved to include new features and benefits for their members, whether it is moving to digital, moving to a membership model, moving away from ads to subscription, all of those kinds of transitions that an organization makes to better serve their best members.
There are often challenges internally, as well as externally. I wanted to ask you about what were the consumer-facing challenges that you faced as you changed and expanded what you offered and move your readers to digital? What kind of response did you get from your consumers? We can hold on to it but I am going to ask you, what was the response internally from your team members and your colleagues? Let me start with consumer-facing challenges and response.
I will start with the consumer-facing challenges. It is obvious that there are going to be some users who are upset when content is behind the paywall. You get messages from them like, “I have been reading VeloNews for many years and we never had to pay for content. This is upsetting to me.” You take it personally. We work hard on this at our company. Robin, our CEO, responds to most of these things and it is a very personalized message. You start to bond with the person who sends you this message. For us, it is being honest about the situation and media now. We always will have a free tier of content to view where you do not have to pay for content. That will always have significant viewership and will always be ad supported.
In this digital ecosystem, you also need to have a paid tier. We know that and we clearly believe that. Being clear with the customer and saying, “These are the economics of how things are working now. We want to continue to have these publications and serve with this great content that you have been reading for many years. In order for us to do that now, this is what we feel like we need to do for our business model.”
I have found that conversation and being honest and open with the person who sent you those messages is helpful. It not only helps that person out but it also helps us from the information that we gather from the person and understanding more about things that we might not have thought about and content that next time, maybe we want a window in front of the paywall for a while for free, and then move behind the paywall.
Before we move on, I have a couple of follow-up questions. One of them is we had David Lorsch from Strava talking about their move to put some of their most popular features behind the paywall. One of the things that he said that he recommended as a best practice was to be clear about what should be free and what should be paid. I am curious how you think about that. You said you leave some things in front of the paywall. There are other things that go behind the paywall. How do you think about what these diehard members should always get for free and what experiences are worth paying for?
It is a little more difficult for us because we are dealing with content at the end of the day. You try to make these objective criteria of what is going to go in front of the paywall and what is going to go behind it. At the end of the day, it ends up being subjective. We spend a lot of time on making something that is unique, probably much more long-form. That is the type of stuff that we put behind the paywall. We think it makes sense because it differentiates our product. We have spent a lot of time and money making it excellent, something that you cannot find everywhere, and something that is going to be great for the end-user at the end of the day. In general-related stuff, the type of content that might be similar to other things in the marketplace, but it has our twist on it or our take on it or things like that.
That type of content generally ends up in front of the paywall, but it ends up being a case-by-case basis where we think stuff should go. Sometimes, we think it is great for the public good and it could be something we spend a ton of time on. It is great content. A lot of our content like around Tour de France, we have a great package put together, map and a podcast and things like that. A lot of that content is in front of the paywall because we think it is great for our users. We want them to have access to it so we put it in front of the data wall.
I appreciate that you talked about one of the reasons for free being public good. I know that with the global pandemic, there is been a lot of thinking and discussion around there is stuff that you make free because it fits into your business model. It is either a free trial or it is a way of building habits, or it creates the product for your advertisers. There is an ROI on all of these but there is another reason which is public good, altruism and your role in the community. It is important both to be clear when you are doing it and to make sure that you understand, “We are doing this for the public good, we expect no return on this investment other than maybe general goodwill,” and to do it when it is appropriate.
With the Tour de France, it is something that you stand for and that you want to share with the community. I appreciate that example. Let us move on. How does the culture change, how do the roles change, and how did your colleagues respond when you started making all of these big changes, moving to digital, adding all these different features, benefits and products, thinking more holistically about your overall ecosystem? People that had been with these different publications for a long time, what had to change, what stayed the same, and how did people react?
To do this, you have to have the right culture and it needs to come from the top down. You need to have a culture of understanding, empathy, sympathy and respect for everyone’s roles, and the values and the opinions that they have and that they bring to the table. When you do that and you have a great community of sharing and listening and trying to learn from each other and trying to make things better, you end up with a great product and things work pretty well. We took an approach, not that we need an entirely new team and we need to replace people. We took the approach of we need to supplement the teams that we have right now with different people. You have all kinds of technical skills that you need and all kinds of subscription and user management people.
Most of the time was also spent listening to the editorial teams and what they thought and what they are hearing in the marketplace and how we could use that information to make the decision about like, “What should we put in the bundle? What should we put in front of the paywall? What should we put behind the paywall?” For someone like me on the business side of things, it is always trying to drive subscriptions for Outside+. Once in a while, an editor will reach out to me and be like, “I feel passionate that this content should be in front of the paywall. Users are going to react negatively to doing this. I do not think it is worth it.”
I take those messages to heart and I appreciate them. I encourage the teams to bring those types of things to me so that we do not make a mistake and we continue to do the right thing in the ecosystem, because at the end of the day, if we are not serving the overall ecosystem and the users well, we know that we are not going to have a business.
It takes a lot of listening internally to our own teams and our users as well about what we should do. I have done this a few times with different businesses making these transitions. This has probably been the greatest one I have had because of the culture that Robin Thurston and our executive team set. Everybody brings something to the table no matter how long you have been here and what your level is. You need to listen to each other and we need to digest that information and figure out how we use it the best possible way to make the overall business great.
It is difficult. I give kudos to you for having a culture where people listen to each other and support each other, and where there is a level of trust that everybody is striving toward the same objective, although coming from different vantage points. Can you share a little bit about the metrics that you use at the different stages to know if your instincts are correct? For example, what brings people on? What makes them engage? What makes them stay or leave? Which articles are driving subscriptions? Which features are driving subscriptions? Do not share anything that is confidential but can you give us a sense of some of the metrics that you are using on your dashboard, and also what you have asked your leadership team to expect from you?
Many people talk about the data now. There is so much data coming at you and you can easily have paralysis by analysis here. We look at the data. The biggest thing for me is engagement in terms of deciding what should go in front of the paywall and what content we should make. Engagement is essentially how long has the person spending on the site, how long is the person’s spending reading each one of these articles. There are other metrics in terms of total page views and users coming in and out, and how people are moving around up and down the funnel for us. It is important to realize that the data can be a little bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you just look at the data all the time, you are going to get yourself essentially caught in this hamster wheel of making the same thing.
It is important to look at least the external data and there is a lot of great stuff out there in terms of what is working for other people, as well as looking at general trends of what are other people doing, not even just in the content space, not even like our own sports side of things or fitness side of things. What are different technologies that are coming out? What are different ways that people are presenting content and that type of stuff? Trying a little bit of some new things all the time to add into the mix and see how that performs.
It is not just completely for us about looking at the data. It is also about spending a lot of time looking at what is going out there. This is a great system right now. It is one of the greatest periods ever for creativity in my mind because everybody can be a creator, a distributor, and essentially build their own mini content business themselves. There is so much great stuff to look at out there. I spend a lot of time at night looking through this and trying to make recommendations and also solicit that from our users, as well as people within our company of different things that we should try.
You bring up a couple of super important points. One of which is thinking about what I would call using your microscope that is your data analysis and look at, “This is what we did this week. This is why this article got these many views and so on.” Balancing that with what I would think of as more your telescope view where you are looking at it and say, “What are our peers doing? What are our competitors doing? What kind of new technology is possible? What are the changing needs and behaviors of the people that we want to engage?” Making sure that those two things are balanced.
It is so easy. We see this a lot in businesses that have been around for a long time, particularly in media but also professional associations and gyms, and organizations that have had memberships for a long time by focusing only on what present members are doing. They can often be loud and demanding because they have an intimate relationship with the company. When you focus so much on them, sometimes you do not see the bigger trends that are happening. That is an important point that I am glad you brought up and I want to make sure that people are absorbing it to not overvalue day-to-day metrics and to make sure you are balancing it with more long-term strategy and also creative leaps forward, as well as continuous tinkering.
[bctt tweet=”We add value by providing premium content to the right user at the right time on the right device. — @Taffysk8, @outsidemagazine”]
It is a great word, tinkering. I get to spend a lot of time doing that and trying different things with partnerships and different technologies that we bring into the business. It is probably my favorite part of the job, which is trying new things. It is so great because it is easier to try this in a digital world and it is easy to figure out if it is working or not working quickly.
Continuous experimentation or continuous tinkering certainly in the digital world is much easier. In the world of subscriptions, it is important because you do not want to do something that is so different and jarring that it upsets your members and makes them look up and reconsider their purchase. At the same time, when they look up and reconsider their purchase for them to say, “These guys have not changed anything in twenty years, and there are so many better alternatives out in the rest of the world, why have not they been shopping?”
Continuous tinkering is important in the world of direct-to-consumer and in the world of subscriptions. It is much easier in the digital world. Sticking with this idea around your internal systems and operations, can you talk a little bit about some of the key roles in the organization? I know you are involved with business development. What are some of the key roles? If you want to have a successful membership that goes beyond the content, what kinds of skills and titles might be added to a more traditional organization as they move into this blending of commerce, community and content?
I will be clear. We view everyone as the same in our company in terms of their value and what they can bring to the table. It could be someone who has just started at the company who comes to us with a great idea. We value everyone at the same point in terms of how they can add value to the business. What is different, especially on the digital side and the subscription side, is you need a lot of people with the traditional technical skills, software development, engineering, a little bit sometimes of hardware products and things like that. A unique skillset in terms of marketers who understand the data and how to efficiently find the users, there is so much competition for the ad space to get these users and get them converted.
You can spend a ton of money on digital marketing. People who know how to do that effectively and cost-effectively for your business is important. The people who can do the data analysis around what is happening with your subscription and understanding how various parts of the bundle add value and tinkering in terms of taking things in and out of the bundle and seeing how that affects the overall subscription. You can start to get a value for one of those individual units in your subscription worth and how much should you be paying for it. Sometimes you do not own things that might be in the bundle. You might have bought it wholesale or things like that. A person selling this product to you has an idea of how much he should be paying for it but oftentimes, you can quickly see what the value is of your bundle.
By moving it out, sometimes you can get an idea of what you should thank for it, or even if you should have it in the bundle and things like that. People who have those unique skillsets around marketing and doing the analysis of what is happening with your bundle and how much you should be paying for it, and what is happening with different cohorts. When we ran this type of content, did we get a lot of users in, which is great in a lot of purchasers, but did they stay? Do we have to keep making content that got them in? That is probably the most unique skillset that I see that is probably different than what is at the marketplace before.
Engineering, analytics, digital marketing, emphasis on engagement, retention, as well as acquisition. Those are the key skills and key lenses to look through that are important. Before we wrap up, I want to ask you, are you up for a little speed round?
Let’s do it. I am ready to go.
The first subscription you ever had?
It was Beckett Baseball Card Monthly, the baseball card publication that shows you how much they were worth.
Favorite subscription? The present company excluded.
I have three kids, so it may not be my favorite thing to watch but my favorite thing that helps my life is probably Disney+.
The last time you enjoyed being outdoors?
I competed in the 1998 Olympic games. One of my teammates is here. We went on a mountain bike ride yesterday.
Present company excluded, a time that you felt connected to a brand you were buying from?
It is a company that we have a close relationship with, Strava. I use Strava every single day and it is a great way for me to connect with a subset of my friends who are much interested in endurance sports.
I am going to open up two questions now. We have time for a couple of questions. First question. What are the 2 or 3 top lessons that you have learned through this implementation of Outside+?
It is a continuous evolution in terms of what users value and what they want to have in the bundle. We did not think we knew everything and we would have it right from the beginning. The biggest thing is continuing to listen to your users, sample them, look at the marketplace, and iterate on the bundle.
Do you think a straightforward subscription to content is a sufficient value proposition for a special interest media brand like magazines, or do you think that now, it is required that you have a wider membership offering in order to be successful?
This is an interesting question. It’s something that I think about all the time because I spend a lot of time helping out in a nonprofit space around Olympic sports. They are very close to special interest things. I came from a speed skating background and you are not served well with media. I always think that if someone was presenting something to me where it was a $10 a month digital subscription to tell me when the race has happened and the results, I will pay $10 a month for that.
In that scenario, your users are paying much more than they probably would pay for other digital subscriptions that are out there that have a much bigger audience that they are addressing. From my lens, especially individual subscriptions will work. It could be a little bit challenging in terms of the price point that you have to have for it because it is a smaller audience. You’ll probably have a much higher subscription fee the most people are willing to pay for but I do see those working
An interesting thing that you brought out is that sometimes less content that is more specific is worth more than lots of general interest articles. I find that fascinating. I think about the information, the newspapers here that are focused mostly on technology companies and provide things like org charts. This is the Amazon org chart. These are the people who report directly and how people are paying twice or three times as much as they do for let us say a Wall Street Journal subscription, which has a much larger newsroom and covers a much broader base of things.
It is the same kind of journalist system, a more narrow and deep focus on the one thing that a particular group wants. Next question, please, can you give us some tangible examples of actual physical experiences you run? What might be an entry-level event up to some of the more lengthy and engaging real-world experiences you offer? As a follow-up, have you seen a big pivot toward more digital event experiences?
I educate myself a lot in this business on in-person events. We own a series of what we call participatory cycling events called Roll Massif. The point of those is to go out and have a great time touring the iconic places in Colorado with amazing views. It is all about cycling with your friends, great views, lots of fun, great food as well. We have those events there. We also own the Warren Miller Library. Warren Miller was a documentarian in the ski business. You have probably seen a lot of his movies. His business has been there for many years. There is a tour that goes along with that every year. When the new film comes out, they do theatrical releases that literally tour around the US. We have events related to that.
We also started a fly-fishing film tour, which has done well. Similar to Warren Miller, it is more of an amalgamation of different creators out there. We put it together in one film and then that tours around. We also own a fitness industry professional business-to-business conference called IDEA that is out there. Those have done well for us. They are great in the bundle because people went and bundled different things for different points when they are essentially consuming content, and events are part of the content for us. We have done more digital events in 2020. They have done well because people miss the opportunity to connect with their peers, whether it is on a business-to-business side of things, or the people that they used to bike with once a year. Those have done well for us as well.
Did you need to integrate with a different platform to meet the needs of your membership or did the tech stack you are using already have all the capabilities you need?
We put together a lot of technologies to make the platform that we have. We build some of those technologies ourselves. Sometimes we build on top of other platforms that are out there. WordPress is our core content management system, and then we build the front end, the websites, and the apps ourselves, but we iterate off of the WordPress platform. We take their course at a technology. We use different plugins. We make some of that stuff our own. Some things we make completely ourselves like our personalization engine and system. It is a combination of getting services from other places and making them ourselves.
I have to say this. It is from Jamie Gavin, “You competed in the Olympic games. Tell us more about this, please.”
As my wife would say, “When he weighed 40 pounds less.” I was a short track speed skater. I was not very good, but I have the opportunity to compete in the ‘99 Olympic games for the US Olympic Team in this sport of short track speed skating. It was an amazing experience because I was not expected to make the team. I ended up making the team and it forever changed my life. It set me on a path that has helped accelerate my professional career. I probably would not have been able to break into sports and media without that. I am forever grateful for that experience.
I did not know that either. I am so glad you shared that. By the way, saying you were not very good and you were in the Olympics, you cannot be not very good and also be in the Olympics. I appreciate your modesty. Thank you so much, Tommy. This was fantastic.
Thank you so much, Robbie. Thank you to the audience for tuning in.
That was Tommy O’Hare, Senior Vice President of Business Development and Licensing for Outside. For more about Tommy and Outside, go to OutsideOnline.com. For more about the summit and to access the other interviews with stories from The Economist, Tesla and Nike among others go to D2C.global. For more about my work with subscription and membership models, go to RobbieKellmanBaxter.com. If you love the show, please leave a review on Apple Podcast and mention this episode if you especially enjoyed it. We read all of the reviews and we want your feedback. Thanks for your support and thanks for reading.
- Tommy O’Hare, Senior Vice President of Business Development and Licensing, Outside
- Robin Thurston, CEO, Outside
- Under Armour
- Triathlete Magazine
- Women’s Running
- Roll Massif
- Outside Television
- Active Interest Media
- Subscription Stories Episode with David Lorsch
- Warren Miller Library
- The Economist
- Apple Podcast – Subscription Stories
About Tommy O’Hare
Tommy O’Hare is Senior Vice President, Business Development & Licensing at Outside. Prior to Outside, Tommy led teams at Discovery Golf, was responsible for the Olympic Committee’s global digital strategy for the Olympic Channel and managed sports content partnerships for YouTube, where he was responsible for the first-ever live streaming of the Olympic Games on a social media platform, sports original programming, and relationships with MCNs and sports teams and leagues.
Prior to YouTube Sports, Tommy was the Director of Business and Content Development for Ustream.tv and was also the Associate Director of Strategic Planning for the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Tommy is a 1998 Olympian in Short Track Speed Skating, 4-time World Championship Team Member and former American record holder in the 500m, 3000m, and 5000m relay. Tommy is a member of the California State Bar, earned his Juris Doctor from St. Louis University School of Law, and graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs with a B.S. in Finance.