For Immediate Release 

Monday December 4, 2023

First Paw Media Acquires Mushing Magazine​

Anchorage, Alaska, USA– Robert Forto, an outdoor leadership consultant, dog musher, and technology entrepreneur, is on a mission to become a historian of sorts for the sport of dog sledding.

At a moment when the print magazine industry is crumbling, the entrepreneur, who has been in the creative media space for more than two decades developing the Dog Works Training Company podcast and brand, has purchased Mushing Magazine to complement its podcast with over three million downloads. With the acquisition, Forto strives to become a media dynast and made it official by rebranding his podcast with the Mushing name.

“I do not believe print is dead, I believe it is changing,” Forto said, based in Willow, Alaska. “And for the companies that do not evolve, I believe they will be in trouble.”

Forto said print publications must fight declining subscriptions and ad sales, attract younger audiences, and compete against an avalanche of free online content while remaining authentic.

His solution is bundling digital subscriptions to all the content hosted by First Paw Media into a $29-a-year Mushing Plus subscription. Members get print subscriptions to Mushing magazine, member-exclusive content and interviews, an education portal, access to the Adventure Dogs Club, and more. Forto likens the model to Patreon, but it is much more robust.

“I felt like there was an opportunity to bring it all together under a single umbrella and really unify the experience for the consumer,” Forto said. “When you combine the services and you add in video-on-demand courses and all of the premium content, I felt like this was an offering for consumers that truly could be a foundation for their active lifestyle world.”

Forto hopes to develop short films, documentaries, and short videos to engage younger people on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube.

Mushing and First Paw Media already have a solid social media presence. Its podcast and YouTube page have several million downloads and posts a steady stream of content.

Forto, an avid dog musher who also enjoys white water rafting, scuba diving, and fat-tire biking, began assembling the company in 2009 when he began his podcast Dog Works Radio in the lobby of his dog training center in Denver, Colorado. As an early adopter in the podcasting space, he wanted to provide an opportunity for dog owners around the world to learn from his client’s questions that they are facing in their daily dog training challenges. When he moved to Alaska in 2010 to chase his mushing dream, he began hosting a weekly dog mushing podcast that is simulcast on a local radio station.

“We are the only dog mushing show in the world that hosts a weekly show about the sport that you can still listen to in your car on the regular radio, like the old days; how cool is that? We are in the mushing capital of the world, so why not,” Forto adds.

Launched in 1988, Mushing Magazine has been celebrated for its in-depth stories and interviews, has covered some of the sport’s most historical moments, and features a steady mix of gear guides, and where-to/how-to stories.

By 2020, Mushing Magazine appeared to be running on fumes, mainly due to the pandemic and the high operational costs. The print magazine has perpetually been behind on several issues. Being headquartered in the remote village of Nome, Alaska, it proved challenging to coordinate with suppliers and get the issue to print. Something had to give, and even though the previous owners wanted to keep the sport’s history alive, they knew there had to be a change.

Forto adds, “Earlier this week, following our acquisition of Mushing Magazine, we plan to offer a more streamlined system for delivering our assets, both print and digital.”

Forto sees opportunity in Mushing and his supporters, who like his vision. With the combined print, digital, educational, and membership assets, he thinks it will be profitable within a year and hopes to expand its reach with other offerings within three years.

Mushing Magazine still has a loyal base of print subscribers, and the digital assets have a wide following worldwide. Forto aims to shift revenue from 70 percent ads to 70 percent subscriptions in just three years. Forto said just converting 10 percent of free visitors to his website to members will meet this goal.

This has been the primary challenge facing magazine publishers for 20 years, as the print ads that provided most of their revenue shriveled. Most are not faring well.

Industry observers say it’s a challenging time to enter the magazine business. “From a business standpoint, I can’t really think of anything that has clearly worked,” said Kevin Lerner, an assistant professor at Marist College and editor of the Journal of Magazine Media. “I don’t know that anybody’s really quite figured it out.”

Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin, an associate professor at Columbia College and a former magazine editor, said recent years have “just been brutal, brutal for magazines.”

“It is no secret that magazines have a broken business model. And it’s been really challenging to convince consumers to pay for carefully created content when they are awash in a sea of free content,” said Bloyd-Peshkin. For Mushing Magazine, this brand is saying that a magazine is part of our value proposition, but what you are really buying is a whole package of things that you are used to paying for.

Forto plans to reduce the frequency of the print publications but said he will not discontinue any. There will be much more digital content that will cater to the social norms of today’s media consumption. Mushing Magazine has always been a bi-monthly print publication, but with the printing challenges, it has been behind in the release of the magazine. He said he plans to put about 40 percent of the online content behind a paywall.

Forto believes his formula of bundling its print and digital assets is aligned with his readers’ interests. “Most of the audience is not just doing one activity with their dogs,” he said, “they are doing three or four activities — like bikejoring, hiking, and other dog sports,” Forto adds. “Our goal is to be the home of dog powered sports,” he said. “Our idea of including our Adventure Dogs Club could transform our readers’ interests. It is not uncommon for dog mushers to compete in other sports like dock diving, Rally, and even barn hunts. Our readers love the outdoors, and what better way to incorporate other activities you can do with your dog,” Forto adds.

This formula is not without its detractors. Many dog mushing purists would argue about cross-pollination among readers. For many in this camp, the true enthusiast is about one activity, maybe two; everything else is dabbling, and potentially, stories for dabblers will not interest dedicated enthusiasts. It will be interesting to see if it will work.

Forto has bucked conventional wisdom before. When he doubled down on audio-only podcasting in 2015, skeptics said few people would be listening to interviews but instead would be switching to video. He believes his formula of bundling the publications and digital offerings is aligned with his readers’ interests. “Podcasting continues to grow each year. Listeners can be out running errands, doing the school run, or simply on a walk. There’s next to no effort in listening to an episode of a podcast, and once downloaded, it can be replayed at any time. This increases listener retention and means listeners are less likely to skip ads. Plus, anyone who subscribes to a podcast will get the latest episodes automatically downloaded onto their devices,” Forto exclaims. “Watching videos is not passive. It takes effort.”

“This an exciting time for us and the sport of dog mushing. There is a common adage in the creative tech space to be the first, the best, or different. We are confident we fit that definition explicitly. For us this will be all about creating a completely new customer experience that takes the friction out of getting you more active and staying engaged with the sports you love, welcome home,” Forto concludes.


Media Contact for Robert Forto and First Paw Media:

Michele Forto

Firstpawmedia ( @)


First Paw Media Acquires Mushing Magazine (pdf link)