Outdoor retailer REI has retired its print mail order catalog, but in its place plans to launch a new print magazine dedicated to outdoor lifestyles and environmental issues, the company revealed in a blog post. The retailer is collaborating on the magazine with HearstMade, Hearst’s branded content arm.
“Uncommon Path,” which launches this fall, will be produced in-house and will distributed at 155 REI stores, as well as at several newsstands.
“Uncommon Path tells the stories of the experiences, the events, issues and ideas that shape the relationship between people and life outside,” said Ben Steele, REI’s executive vice president and chief customer officer. “But those stories aren’t limited to trails and peaks. They take us to parks and urban places closer to home, covering issues like climate change impacts that, due to dwindling resources and shrinking local newsrooms, are getting less and less press.”
The magazine joins the brand’s various media products, which include an online journal, film and a podcast. The magazine launch also includes a partnership with NewsMatch, a non-profit that supports local journalism. The retailer plans to invest $100,000 in 10 local news organizations this year.
“Communities increasingly count on nonprofit newsrooms for coverage of the environment and news of the outdoors, as these newsrooms provide environmental reporting as a public service,” said Sue Cross, executive director and CEO of the Institute for Nonprofit News. INN is a network of more than 220 newsrooms bringing independent, nonprofit news coverage to thousands of communities across North America. “Through NewsMatch, REI is helping ensure that community support for this coverage is doubled.”
REI’s gift will support local environmental and outdoor coveragelike Bay Nature’s 10-month reporting effort that showed how gentrification can occur under the mantle of creating parks or cleaning up environmental pollution in poor neighborhoods and InvestigateWest’s investigation into the inadequacy of Seattle’s tree-protection ordinance. REI gives back 70 percent of its profits to the outdoor community each year. This year, REI members who buy Uncommon Path will be contributing to the health of the outdoors, including local environmental and outdoor-focused journalism.
REI’s doubling-down on a print magazine, which offers a unique, long-form reading experience to consumers that are inundated with short form digital content, is aligned with a trend of brands moving back to print media in part because of its ability to create deep engagements with consumers, even as time spent with printed news declines. Online dating app Bumble recently partnered with Hearst to produce a print magazine that features stories and advice about dating, careers and friendship, while home-sharing giant Airbnb also partnered with Hearst for its first issue of Airbnb Magazine. Similarly, video streaming site Netflix released a free journal promote its original content.
And before you decry the problems with paper and print, consider that data centers, which house and provide the computing for all our data and applications in the cloud, including web properties and digital publications, are currently among the largest consumers of energy and significantly contribute to rising carbon emissions. In the U.S., all data centers make up 2 percent of national electricity consumption, according to a 2016 report by Berkeley Lab. By 2020, data centers are expected to consume 140 billion kilowatt-hours of energy, according to a report by the National Resources Defense Council. That’s equivalent to the annual output of 50 power plants, the report says, while spewing out nearly 100 million metric tons of carbon pollution per year — that’s more than the greenhouse gas emissions of 140 countries.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how much energy is being poured into most data centers, says Steve Hone of the Data Centre Alliance, because for every commercial data center there are at least 100 private ones. “The government would say that their CO2 emissions are the same as the aviation industry,” Hone explains, with the “average commercial data center using the same amount of power as a small town.”
Possibly even more concerning is the amount of energy many data centers waste. Some surveys have shown that only 6 percent to 12 percent of the energy drawn is used for actual computing. Sixty percent alone can be lost on keeping servers cool. Some tech firms are moving toward greener energy alternatives, such as data centers in the ocean and even on satellites in space, but the industry has to find a way to eliminate the waste.