Two years ago, when I reprised my job as editor of Climbing Magazine, I returned after a seven-year hiatus to find a changed landscape. When I left the title in 2010, we had a part-time freelancer feeding news stories to the site and a part-time freelancer in charge of online content management. And that was it. Only a few years into the Facebook/iPhone/YouTube era, and with Instagram not yet existent, the web was just another way climbing news, images, and videos were shared. Print, more or less, was still king, though blogs had gained traction as a way for athletes, writers, and manufacturers to reach readers without having to pass through the sieve of the climbing media. The web was slowly democratizing things.
In 2017 back at Climbing Magazine, the title now had a full-time digital editor, and the site plus our social-media presence had turned into a juggernaut that far outstripped our modest digital footprint in years previous. In fact, we’d also created a whole new community of readers, many of whom weren’t subscribers or may even have been surprised to learn we had a print title. While it’s been great to see this new means of storytelling thrive and grow—as well as to witness the amazing content hitting the web directly from athletes and content creators themselves—the Web 2.0 has also presented us with challenges as a business. Namely, how do continue to offer the same great content at Climbing.com in a way that’s economically sustainable?
At the end of the day, Climbing Magazine is a media business like any other. Like all of our readers, we on the editorial staff are deeply passionate about the sport. I will always be a climber and always have been, even when vertical pursuits aren’t intertwined with how I make my living. And I certainly get that some climbers have mixed feelings about climbing media even existing, going back to the sport’s countercultural roots in America in the 1960s and ‘70s. However, nearly 50 years into the title’s existence, we’re still going strong—and aim to keep it that way. I believe strongly in Climbing Magazine’s heritage and importance as a voice for our sport, no matter which medium we’re using to reach our readers.
Which is where the Summit Membership program comes in. You may not realize it, but the vast majority of the content on our site comes from the print magazine: After an issue has gone off sale at the newsstand, we begin to trickle the content onto Climbing.com, promoting the stories on social media to drive reader engagement. So, in essence, all you had to do to access the premium content from our print title without paying for a subscription was wait a couple months for it to show up online. However, we can’t keep doing this—it takes time, effort, and resources for our contributors and editorial staff to envision, create, and refine this content. And since none of us are independently wealthy—and because, as with any job, people should be remunerated for their efforts—we’ve reached a point at which we also need our online readers to support us via a subscription model. In an era of dwindling advertiser and subscriber support for print, there is often no choice if a magazine wants to stay viable. As a result, new print content going forward will be behind a paywall, while we will continue to provide news coverage and some other content, like gear reviews, to our readers for free.
We’d also like to use the opportunity created by the program to put resources into original content around some of the most pressing issues that face the climbing community—and the planet. Namely the dawning consensus that we are in an environmental crisis which affects us on all levels of being, from our impact as consumers to our impact at the crags and in the mountains. Our goal will be to create more in-depth stories about the social, economical, and environmental issues facing our sport, as well as give readers some tools for effecting positive change themselves.
The good news is, our online subscription is going to be very affordable, like dirtbag-affordable: $40 for a whole year. This not only gets you access to each issue’s content in full as it comes out, both in print and digitally, but also to membership exclusives. So, you get the same great features, departments, gear reviews, and photography we’ve been offering on our site and in print for years, plus access to our new roundtable podcast; our monthly “Climbing with Climbing” interactive Facebook livestream, covering topics as diverse as training, personalities, and man-on-the-street (or “at-the-crag” interviews); our newly relaunched Unbelayvable climbing-advice column; monthly exclusive opinion pieces, columns, and a newsletter; a membership to the Vertical Life channel at Film Festival Flix, packed full of the very best climbing films; discounts for gear and AIM Adventure U courses; and more. And, we’re just getting started. With your support, we can continue to improve and build upon all the momentum Climbing.com has already created.
While Climbing Magazine may seem to be a big title given all the names on our masthead, the reality is that it’s a very small staff who actually creates the content—three full-time editors and a freelance designer, plus our hard-working Associate Publisher Kevin Riley producing our podcasts. We love what we do, and given the overwhelming response to the content we put up on the internet, we believe you do, too. So I hope you’ll join us in continuing to support the vision, voice, and legacy of the title. See you at the rocks—and behind the paywall.
—Matt Samet, Editor
Summit Membership Benefits
- A 1-year print subscription to Climbing Magazine (current subscribers will have a year added to their subscription)
- Access to all of our print stories on Climbing.com, the day the magazine hits newsstands
- Bonus content:
- Roundtable podcasts with the Climbing editors
- Facebook livestreams
- Unbelayvable climbing advice column
- Summit newsletter written by the editors
- Exclusive columns and opinion pieces
- Access to the Summit Members Facebook Group
- 50-percent off AIM Adventure U courses
- A 1-year subscription to Film Festival Flix’s Vertical Life Channel