In January 2020, Mike Rogge sat down at a bar across from the Outdoor Retailer trade show in Denver, Colorado, and bought a magazine.
Mountain Gazette has been around since the 60s and had a cult following in the outdoor community — publishing writers like Edward Abbey and Hunter S. Thompson — but has had an on-again, off-again lifespan under different ownership situations. It hadn’t published a new issue since 2012, and now Rogge owned the entire publication.
In a brutal digital media landscape, Rogge is betting that his vision for the Mountain Gazette will be a sustainable one: publish two print magazines per year — to subscribers only — and forgo all digital publishing.
Rogge, who has spent 15 years working in the media industry for outlets like Powder Magazine, Vice Sports and The Ski Journal, likens print media to vinyl records. While most record labels these days have to focus on the streaming services, some still appreciate the art of a physical album.
“Our subscribers want more meaningful connection, and they care about quality over quantity,” Rogge says. “I feel like for every media company, they’re in your face 24/7 on every platform. We just want to be on your coffee table twice a year.”
So far, that bet is paying off. Mountain Gazette sold out of their first issue of the revived magazine (issue #194), which shipped to subscribers in November. As of the beginning of 2021, the total subscriber count was 1,400.
The 132-page, 11×17-inch magazine features a breadth of subject matter — from a meditation on stargazing, to an interview with Colorado Governor Jared Polis, to an essay titled, “Drinking with a Dead Woman,” about a paranormal encounter at a ski town bar. The editorial mission, as summed up by Rogge, is anything that happens when you step out of your front door.
Contributors range in age from 14 to 84 years old. Some contributors are industry veterans while some have never been published before. Rogge wants to treat his contributors right by paying fairly and on time, and he hopes that the Gazette can be a space to help undiscovered literary talent break into the media industry.
And in addition to writers, the large format of the magazine offers plenty of room for photographers to showcase their work.
This connection to a community of creators is what drives Rogge forward.
“I felt like the outdoor landscape for media wasn’t representative of what I believe the outdoors to be, which is a really inclusive, community-based thing.”
To foster that community, Rogge is planning to feature more information about the magazine’s subscribers on social media and in a newsletter. Mountain Gazette does not publish any articles online, save for the very occasional blog post, and its social media channels mostly post old cover art and photo submissions from subscribers. Recently, Rogge has been updating a blog post with subscriber photos from a massive storm that hit California.
“It’s not my magazine, it’s yours,” he often says. And it’s not just about people either — on the magazine’s website you can pick up a branded dog collar in addition to T-shirts and prints of previous magazine covers.
Rogge is also working with a California-based organization to become 100 per cent carbon neutral. They will track how far the magazine travels, from the printer to each subscriber’s doorstep, and pay to offset the amount of carbon consumed. The deal isn’t signed yet, but Rogge expects it to be a done deal by the time the spring issue is out in the world.
The magazine’s tagline, printed on the cover, is reminiscent of somebody climbing a mountain or skiing the toughest lines. But it also applies to somebody producing a print magazine in a digital world, and building a community of storytellers and story readers: “When it Doubt, Go Higher.”
In the news
- HubSpot is acquiring The Hustle.
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- URL Media launches to help sustain “high-performing Black and brown media organizations.”
- There are two big job openings at the American Journalism Project.
- Membership Puzzle Project is issuing its final call for research proposals.
- The new #ONAinfoequity database helps journalists find resources to engage communities that are underrepresented in their reporting.
- The Fund for Investigative Journalism is accepting proposals for grants of up to $10,000 for stories that break new ground and uncover wrongdoing in the public or private sectors.
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