National Geographic Adventure will cease operations, it was announced today, a victim of the down economy and systemic changes in publishing. The final issue is December/January, the Best of Adventure, which is on newsstands now.

The move follows a report by Folio on Tuesday that the National Geographic Society was trying to find a buyer for the struggling book, and rumors of a possible deal to sell NGA to Bonnier Corp. proved unfounded. Advertising pages were down 44 percent through the third quarter compared to last year, which was itself a tough year. It was no surprise that the magazine was struggling; all outdoor publications have suffered big drops in advertising and most have had layoffs. Like many, Adventure cut costs dramatically, including dropping from 10 issues a year to 8, but it wasn’t sufficient. Just a few issues after celebrating NGA’s 10th anniversary, the National Geographic Society decided enough was enough.

NGS released the following statement:

National Geographic is transitioning its Adventure brand from traditional print to a multi-platform model that will include newsstand editions, books, e-magazines, mobile applications and a robust Web site. National Geographic will also continue to honor the world’s great explorers and adventurers with the National Geographic Adventure Awards. “We’re tremendously proud of what John Rasmus and his team have accomplished over the last 10 years,” NG Publishing President John Q. Griffin said in making the announcement. “They have consistently delivered award-winning editorial to an enthusiastic audience of readers and advertisers. But given the current advertising environment and the opportunities we see in emerging digital platforms, we think the time is right to transition the Adventure brand.” Griffin shared the news at a staff meeting in New York today. A total of 17 staffers in New York and Washington are affected.

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The New York office will remain open until December 18 while the business of shutting down goes on–returning photos to photographers, for example. Further details were not forthcoming and there was no word on exactly how Adventure would transition to a “multi-platform” model without a staff.

The sadness I feel at NGA’s passing is deep beyond words. Some of my dearest friends and most respected colleagues lost their jobs today, and though I have every confidence they will thrive in their new ventures, the dissolution of this amazing group of people has me heartsick. John Rasmus, the founding and only editor the magazine ever had, built a title that carried the National Geographic excellence into a world where people don’t just read about adventures, they create them for themselves. From nothing, he built a magazine that was sober, insightful, and wide-ranging, one that dwelt on the depths of the oceans and the heights of the tallest peaks, but that was intimately accessible to someone just venturing outdoors for the first time. The people he assembled over the years were and are some of the brightest and most gifted in publishing. It’s no small measure of his eye for talent that three of his past editors have gone on to make their mark as the top editors at Men’s Journal, Popular Mechanics, and Popular Science. The current staff is scary smart, deeply committed to the magazine, and fully connected to their pursuits they cover.

John called me about contributing to the magazine before it launched in 1999. At the time, I was freelancing for all the usual suspects-Outside, Men’s Journal, Backpacker-and I was intrigued by the concept of a National Geographic magazine about adventure. And it was funny, that first year or two. Whenever the staff in New York called on behalf of the magazine, they’d say, “Hi, I’m calling from Adventure magazine.” Those of us in the field would say, “Hi, I’m calling from NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC…adventure.” They were so eager to stand on their own, separate from the mothership, but that gradually changed until they embraced NG fully and completely. I understood their desire to make their own mark, but was relieved when they pulled the yellow border closer. National Geographic is the most respected, influential magazine in the world. To travel under its banner is a blessing, an honor, and a gift. More important, it stands for a level of quality and striving for truth that is rare in the world of publishing. Oh, everybody tries hard at magazines, but working for a National Geographic title fills you with an imperative to uphold a century of journalistic heritage with great work. John set the bar high and never lost sight of it. Over the last 10 and a half years, I have been pushed, pulled, and challenged by my editors, in both editorial and photo, to live up to that, and I am better in every way for it.

For those of you who are just passing readers of the magazine, its demise might be a mere curiosity or random note of economic discord. But for those of us who care about good writing, great photography, insight and curiosity and advocacy for an engaged relationship with the world at large, it is a truly remorseful day. The outdoor culture is far emptier for this news. Magazines are, of course, businesses, and some of them are nakedly commercial. But some are built around an idea or a calling, and these, the best of them, can create an emotional bond with their readership based on shared philosophy, common passion, and mutual respect. National Geographic Adventure’s tagline, “Dream It. Plan It. Do It.”, is a powerful call to action. More critically, it puts the focus on the reader, where it should be, to get up, get out, and get going. If past experience is any guide, those of us who have been connected to National Geographic Adventure, either as readers, contributors, or both, will carry fragments of that DNA with us, whether we’re writing, shooting photos, or simply out in the world. The magazine might not have survived this economy, but its ideals will. And for that, we should be thankful.

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Steve Casimiro
West Coast Editor
National Geographic Adventure