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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The Downfall of a Leader Contd...

Industry observers commented that RD should have revamped its strategies to improve its performance in the mid-1990s itself.

But the uncertainty at the top management level at RDA (change in four CEOs during the period) resulted in this issue being neglected.

During the same period, many talented personnel left RD, which severely affected the magazine's editorial aspects.

Analysts felt that the exit of Kenneth Tomlinson (Tomlinson, RD's editor), in 1996, was a great blow to the magazine.

Tomlinson was seen by many as RD's last great editor -a former RD employee said, "He really understood what the Digest is all about." Christopher Willcox (Willcox), who took over as the new editor of RD after Tomlinson, focused on cutting costs through employee reduction.

The editorial staff at RD was cut down significantly between 1996-98, by way of attrition or forced retirements. Willcox also brought out significant editorial changes in the magazine such as cutting the number of stories, focusing on the magazine's visual impacts and shifting the table of contents to inside the magazine from its front cover page, and placing the latest news-items under a section 'Currents.'

However, these measures failed to boost RD's sales. While a few RD employees thought that Willcox's moves had helped RD sustain its market position, others remarked that his strategies had in fact contributed to the magazine's downfall.

The moves to downsize the editorial staff and the editorial changes brought by Willcox were blamed for reducing the morale among the magazine staff. According to a former editor, "He (x) cared more about look than content. He did not do much to maintain standards."...

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