Reader's Digest pulls back print, focuses on digital

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Reader's Digest is reducing its rate base and frequency as it redirects resources to new media and digital initiatives worldwide.

The US edition of the magazine will slowly trim its rate base from 8 million to 5.5 million over the course of 18 months, starting with the February 2010 issue. Cuts will be focused on less profitable and less loyal subscriptions. The magazine will also reduce its frequency from 12 issues a year to ten, all in an effort to save money for the company, which will invest in new content offerings throughout the year, including digital single topic editions, mobile applications, e-reader products and videos.

“Consumers are no longer consuming media through one vehicle, and obviously digital has had a big impact on how people consume media, so we're transitioning our business model from a monolithic magazine to being global content distributors,” said Eva Dillon, president, Reader's Digest Community.

A new multiplatform branding effort will create “Readers Digest Version” products across all media. These concise offerings, in print, online and even in video format, will be shortened, simplified (“Reader's Digest”) versions of original RD content from the brand's magazine, books and Web sites.

Dillon said that, because Reader's Digest online readers have a lower median age than the print readers, the median age of the brand overall could come down as RD rolls out more digital products. She also pointed out, however, that Baby Boomers represent the magazine's core audience across platforms, and RD will continue to cater to a broad base.

One of the brand's first digital releases will be a global Web platform, rolling out this summer. The new portal will offer 40 editions in 21 languages.

“The Web sites before were very disparate, and there was no consistency in the URLs or missions — which was unlike the magazine,” Dillon explained. “Now, with this global effort there will be consistency and flexibility and a common mission.”

As part of its global synchronization, the company has named US editor-in-chief Peggy Northrop to the new position of global editor-in-chief. Northrop will direct all print and digital content worldwide, with editors for each version reporting directly to her.

Another new player in Reader's Digest's global marketing strategy is Amy Radin, who was just named SVP and CMO for Reader's Digest Association. Radin joins RDA from Citigroup, where she served as EVP and global direct banking head, responsible for strategy. At RDA she is responsible for the company's global marketing efforts and multi-platform growth and reports to Mary Berner, president and CEO of RDA.

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