High Times Magazine, the prominent but struggling pot publication, is looking to shift away from its stoner reputation and focus on covering the broader culture as marijuana shifts to the mainstream, says CEO Stormy Simon, who just took the helm last week.
Simon takes over as the 45-year-old company looks to monetize its business, expand its digital footprint, create an online e-commerce marketplace, and make a mark in retail stores as it pivots toward a “physical and virtual” cannabis distribution business, the company said in an SEC filing.
“Cannabis, by nature, has been a subculture,” she said. “So High Times was a part of that, almost carrying that load alone, as far as spreading the word, and now it is a culture of society. Everyone is curious about cannabis, they’re trying it out.”
High Times’ iconic role in cannabis culture and history hasn’t saved it from problems plaguing the media industry. In December, Hightimes Holdings, the magazine’s parent company, disclosed in an SEC filing it may have to shut down operations due to “recurring operating losses, net operating cash flow deficits, and an accumulated deficit.” In the preceding months, a spate of negative headlines foreshadowed the news. The company lost a 3-month-old chief financial officer amid a challenging initial public offering and laid off a majority of employees at subsidiary Dope Magazine.
Such was the state of the company when Simon, formerly of e-commerce retailer Overstock, took the helm.
On Tuesday, she seemed undeterred: “We’re the oldest startup I’ve ever seen. Any startup has concerns.”
Though she said the company is “always concerned” with potential obstacles as federal legalization remains out of reach, “we’re a part of the industry, a big part of it, with a big brand and so we plan to push that even harder,” she said.