*Reader's Digest Announces Membership Clubs Program

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NEW YORK - Reader's Digest Inc. Chairman/CEO Thomas Ryder yesterday said his company would begin offering its readers subscription-based club memberships to help bolster its operational profits. The clubs will target readers with special discounts on products and services


He made the announcement while delivering his keynote speech here yesterday at the Direct Marketing Days conference, which wraps up today.


Ryder said his publishing/direct marketing firm's operational profits from 1999 was $250 million, but it planned on that figure exceeding $500 million by 2004, while expanding its marketing ventures with initiatives like the membership clubs.


The clubs will focus on the subjects of home, health, family, personal finance and faith. Digest's customer database will determine what club will be offered to each reader. The customers will then be offered a discount for a product or service in that area in exchange for an annual membership fee.


"We expect to come to agreements with companies offering products or services that will interest our consumers," Ryder said.


Keira Kuhs, director of new business development for Reader's Digest, said the clubs would likely be promoted through telemarketing efforts and possibly some advertising within the firm's six periodicals. She was unable to comment on prices for the memberships.


"The revenue model for the clubs is totally based on subscription fees," Kuhs said. "With this program, we want to expand our marketing initiatives within our already established customer base, and also reach new customers."

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