Reader's Digest - The Story of a Magazine

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Case Details:

Case Code : MKTG041
Case Length : 12 Pages
Period : 1996 - 2003
Pub Date : 2003
Teaching Note : Available
Organization : Readers Digest Association (RDA, US)
Industry : Publishing
Countries : USA

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Please note:

This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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Building The Reader's Digest Empire

The RD story dates back to the early-1920s, when DeWitt Wallace and his wife Lila Acheson decided to launch a magazine that would offer condensed versions of 'digested' articles (published articles) from a wide variety of sources to the readers.

The idea behind the decision was to provide readers with all the best articles in a single source and save them the cost of buying a range of newspapers, periodicals or magazines. However no publisher was ready to take up the task, following which the Wallaces set themselves to the task and launched RD.

Wallaces adopted the direct mail marketing system to sell the magazine. They sought $3 as the initial subscription (for one year/12 issues) and promised a complete refund if the subscriber was not satisfied with the first issue. The first issue of the magazine was launched in 1922 and became an instant success...

Ryder to the Rescue - The Restructuring

In 1998, under the leadership of Ryder, RDA announced a re-engineering strategy, to increase profitability and create long-term growth opportunities by building on its core strengths. As a part of this, RDA decided to revitalize RD's franchises, focus on health, home, faith, family and finance (areas of high interest to consumers), focus on new marketing channels apart from sweepstakes and direct mail, and continue geographic expansion...

Readers Do Not Digest

Much to RDA's chagrin, many RD lovers, who had been patronizing the magazine since the past few decades, expressed their dissatisfaction over the changes in the magazine's design and content. According to them, the quality of content had come down drastically. For example, the February 2002 issue carried a picture of film actress Meg Ryan on the cover page and a 10 page interview with her. The back cover featured a picture of 'Alaska's all-girl rescue squad' and a related story, which reportedly looked 'nothing less than an inferior article on feminism.'...


Exhibit I: Reader's Digest Association - Milestones
Exhibit II: Top 20 General Interest Magazines Worldwide (2001-2002)
Exhibit III: RDA - Financial Information

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