Yes, even the Reader’s Digest …

Reader's Digest logoAs print magazines have been hammered by falling advertising revenues and as eyeballs have shifted from paper to PCs, the one publication one might think would be spared much of the fallout is Reader’s Digest. With its readership skewing older along with its strong popularity across the entire income spectrum — not to mention its 8 million domestic circulation — it would seem to be the media property best able to maintain a strong position in the current environment.

Well, you can burst that bubble. This past week, Reader’s Digest announced plans to shed some 2.5 million subscribers. It also announced that it is reducing its frequency from monthly to just 10 issues per year.

Plus, like other consumer magazines, Reader’s Digest is expanding its digital presence. Just listen to how Eva Dillon, Reader’s Digest president and group publisher, puts it (in florid language): “As one of the world’s largest producers of original content, we will continue our transformation into an innovative, multimedia brand by delivering content to users whenever and by whatever means they want, through expanded digital and print investments and the development of new mobile, video and multimedia applications.”

Translation: The print model isn’t working anymore, so we’re trying what everybody else is doing. We’ll see how it goes.

Of course, let’s not forget that Reader’s Digest is the world’s largest transnational magazine brand. When you add up its 50-odd country editions around the globe, its circulation tops 14 million.

So this brand isn’t going away anytime soon. But it is interesting to see that despite its unique (and enviable) position in the publishing world, Reader’s Digest is having to deal with the very same issues as everyone else in the industry.

2 thoughts on “Yes, even the Reader’s Digest …

  1. So does this mean that healthcare community newsletters produced by hospitals should also start to reshape into electronic only communication tools? Or is there still a limited need to have both the old fashion printed version while we convert our readers to an electronic media?

  2. It would be interesting to compare the U.S. readership demos from Reader’s Digest to those of the typical community or regional hospital. We might find some striking similarities in terms of age, gender and income breakdown. In the case of RD, they are not eliminating the print product, just reducing its frequency while adding new digital tools for subscribers. We are in the awkward part of a classic transition — wherein we must continue to serve customers on either side of the change! It reminds me of the famous “speed wars” back in the 1950s, when record companies had to release the exact same recordings in three separate formats (78 rpm sets, 45 rpm sets, and LP disks) to cover the market properly. How convoluted — and expensive — was that!

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