The outdoor retailer REI may be the place to buy a backpack or canoe, but it will also soon be in the business of selling podcast advertising. REI has joined a growing number of retail companies that have launched a content business. The just-announced REI Co-op Studios will include an in-house content arm that will develop podcasts, films, and other editorial content.
"The outdoors is for everyone, and content is a powerful and relevant way to bring that belief to our members and new audiences," said Paolo Mottola, REI Director of Content and Media. "We are supporting projects that explore this idea from a variety of perspectives, formats and, most importantly, from a variety of voices. Our plan is to share and promote stories that encourage awareness, inspiration and celebrate the different ways communities spend time outside."
Among the projects lined up for release in the coming months is a podcast called Hello, Nature. The Misha Euceph-hosted show will explore America’s national parks through the eyes of a Pakistani American. The podcast is scheduled to debut in September.
REI is not entirely new to podcasting. It previously launched the Camp Monsters podcast that features scary campfire-style stories of the creatures that lurk in the woods. Camp Monsters recently launched its third season.
Seattle-based REI sees the Co-op Studio as part of their larger commitment to focus on climate, racial equity, and diversity. That means the studio will prioritize storytelling from people and communities that are historically underrepresented groups, including women, African Americans, LGBTQ, and any other historically underrepresented group, as well as stories that reflect the opportunity to protect the environment. ”REI is expanding its content efforts to give members more outdoor perspectives and inspire new outdoor experiences,” the company said. The next release from Co-op Studios is "The Trees Remember," a three-part, scripted, short film series with titles "Movement," "Maintenance" and "Migration," written and directed by Angela Tucker. The series explores connection to nature through the stories of three Black women. Set in different decades, the narratives depict their compelling and sometimes humorous journeys of growth and healing in the outdoors. It is also planning new episodes of the digital series "Miranda in the Wild," featuring REI employee and enthusiastic backpacker and hiker, Miranda Webster, who shares her knowledge and humor to help break down barriers to getting outside. Also in the works is a digital show featuring James Beard award-winning chef, nutrition coach and avid rock climber, Maria Hines. She will explore the intersection of nutritious food, outdoor sports, and the environment.
REI began exploring content in 2019 when it relaunched its in-house journal as a quarterly editorial print magazine, focused on advocacy, storytelling, and outdoor products. With its 20-million-strong member-subscriber base, it instantly became among the largest outdoor media publishers in the U.S.