Outside Business Journal

A New Mountain Biking Magazine Is Born

Beta—a new mountain biking magazine, website, and membership program—might have emerged from the Covid-driven cycling craze, but its industry roots run deep

Eric Smith

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Covid-19 has crushed parts of the media landscape, and one of its victims was longtime cycling publication Bike magazine, whose publisher cited the pandemic-deflated economy as the chief reason for indefinitely “pausing” production of the title last October.

In this particular casualty of the coronavirus, however, Boulder, Colorado-based active lifestyle publisher (and OBJ parent company) Pocket Outdoor Media saw a growth opportunity.

As soon as Bike hit the brakes, Pocket Outdoor Media CEO Robin Thurston decided he wouldn’t wait around to see if it would resume operations. Instead, he saw a chance to fill that magazine’s void in the marketplace with a new title in POM’s portfolio, so he invited the editorial staff of the now-idle publication to join his company and reimagine what a mountain biking magazine could—and should—be.

A New Title

The result is Beta, a multichannel content platform launched Tuesday, which includes a new quarterly magazine, website, and membership program called Beta Pass (part of Pocket’s larger Active Pass platform). Its first print edition is due out in late March, just as the snow begins melting and riders return to dirt singletrack across much of the country.

Former Bike editor and California-based mountain biking industry veteran Nicole Formosa will serve as Beta’s first editor-in-chief. She says Thurston called her with the idea the day after Bike announced it would cease publication, and soon the proverbial knobby wheels were in motion.

“This opportunity with Pocket to start something new, to have support from a publisher, is pretty unheard of in media,” Formosa tells OBJ. “And to have that publisher say, ‘We trust you, we like what you were doing—do that for us—and bring the team you want to bring,’ that is unbelievably rare. I’m grateful and appreciative of Robin and Pocket for the support that allows us to keep going, to keep creating the kind of content we all want to create.”

Expanded Market Opportunity

Beta couldn’t be hitting newsstands, smartphones, and laptops at a better time. Not only did the coronavirus upend publishing, but it drove more people onto mountain bikes and into the woods, so the arrival of a new publication that covers a sport amid this renaissance was timely, to say the least.

Beta will tap into this trend and differentiate itself from the competition by building a mountain biking brand that caters to more than the hardcore rider. Formosa says the hope is to attract legions of new enthusiasts—many of whom found the sport because they needed a new socially distanced outdoor activity—without alienating the diehards. Beta wants to become the go-to resource for all levels and types of riders, including those who ride electric MTBs.

Formosa has brought with her a group of diverse and experienced storytellers who understand mountain biking trends and can expertly help enthusiasts choose their gear, improve their technique, and increase their stoke.

“Our strength is in long-form storytelling, quality over quantity, authoritative gear coverage, and in-depth analysis,” Formosa says. “Our editors have a strong reputation and credibility in the industry for objectivity on the gear side. And we have something rare in the mountain bike media landscape—real journalism, a real focus on storytelling.”