Once again, the SLAP message board rumors are not far from the truth. Transworld SKATEboarding has a new parent company, and the future of the thirty-five-year-old publication is uncertain.
The Enthusiast Network (TEN), which runs the Transworld imprints alongside a bunch of other “Adventure Sports Network” (ASN) brands like SNOWBOARDER, BIKE, SURFER and the Dew Tour, has officially been bought by American Media, Inc. (AMI), a publishing conglomerate that puts out, among other rags, Us Weekly, the National Enquirer, and Men’s Journal.
What this means for Transworld SKATEboarding and its employees is still in the air, but the early signs are not promising.
An AMI spokesperson told Forbes that no immediate staff reductions are anticipated. They clarified that “back-office efficiencies are part of what drives any acquisition,” which sounds a lot like saying staff cuts are coming across TEN’s brands. And in fact, cutthroat layoffs already started.
The surfing site Stab reported that as part of the deal with AMI, employees from all of TEN’s publications met on Jan. 31st to find out whether or not they were getting let go. Employees were told to arrive at one of two times during the day, and which time they were sent to determined whether they were losing or keeping their job.
No one knew which time held which fate, and one TEN employee compared the atmosphere to a Nazi death camp, (over)stating, “It was like you were either being sent to the gas chambers, or you’d get to live another day.”
At the day’s end, more than half of all of TEN’s employees were terminated. According to their Instagram posts, Brian Blakely, Transworld SKATE’s Managing Editor, and Paul Kobriger, the Marketing Director have parted ways with the mag.
We reached out to Mackenzie Eisenhour, Transworld’s Associate Editor, who told us over text that he doesn’t know much more than we do at the moment, but that “a few of us [at Transworld] are apparently still employed.”
Those ASN employees spared by AMI’s mass layoffs will now report to Men’s Journal Chief Content Officer, Greg Emmanuel, and will also be under the AMI-umbrella led by CEO, David J. Pecker. To give you a sense of AMI’s management, Pecker was a key supporter of Donald Trump, and admitted to silencing negative stories about Trump, including allegations of sexual misconduct, during Trump’s 2016 campaign.
This is the fourth time Transworld SKATEboarding has been sold since 2000, and they’ve managed to survive throughout them all. But if the mag doesn’t make it this time, it’ll be a major loss to skaters and the skate media landscape.
Transworld SKATEboarding started in 1983 as a family-friendly alternative to Thrasher, which at the time was the only American skate publication. (Skateboarder was around in the ’60s and ’70s, but ceased print during the ’80s.)
Thrasher was NorCal, Santa Cruz, Independent Trucks, and “Skate and Destroy” spread across a few dozen black-and-white pages of newsprint. Transworld came out as a more mainstream counterbalance to that hardcore aesthetic, using high-gloss color pages to promote a “Skate and Create” mentality and, of course, to advertise its founder Larry Balma’s truck company, Tracker. Despite its mainstream posturing, or maybe because of it, Transworld would become an integral part of the skate industry.
Over the next few decades, Transworld defined an engaging skate nerdery and produced some of the culture’s most iconic videos. From 1999-2003 alone they put out classics like The Reason, Modus Operandi, Sight Unseen, and In Bloom. Even as Transworld’s relevance slipped a bit because of constant owner-turnover and the sudden rise of the web, they managed to put out pretty solid content and good print issues to this day.
But times are tough for media companies everywhere, and the people making and editing content are the most vulnerable. Just in the last two weeks over 2,100 people at major media outlets have lost their jobs, with more cuts expected. That’s bad for writers and editors, but also for readers.
There’s a troubling trend across all of publishing, with once-independent media companies being bought out by conglomerates. In skateboarding, this means fewer presentations of skate philosophies to pick from, fewer creative jobs within the industry, and an overall flattening of the culture. So even if Transworld wasn’t your type of mag, its potential gutting leaves a depressing vacuum in the universe of skate media.
One source Stab spoke with suggested that AMI’s purchase of the TEN brands is likely a “‘slash and burn’ acquisition, with [AMI] buying TEN for cheap and making a quick buck by selling the action sports titles individually.”
If some “used to skate” multi-millionaire out there wants to swoop in and save the Transworld SKATEboarding we’ve known and loved over the years, let’s talk. But if this is the start of the end, then a big thanks goes out to Transworld. You were “an original ripper. An original Coors.”