Alyce Alston: A Purpose Driven Publisher Who’s Helping Reinvent the Publishing ModelFebruary 8, 2009
Alyce Alston is on a purpose driven mission: meeting customers’ demands and acknowledging that content is king. She is not afraid of what is going on in the media business nor she is afraid of starting new magazines in this climate. “This is the real world,” she told me in a phone interview, “and we have no other choice but to find unique ways to publish and to leverage the Reader’s Digest global brand.” The President of the Home & Garden and Health & Wellness at The Reader’s Digest Association is living the real world both in her professional and personal life. She launches three new magazines this week and enjoys driving a mini-van while living in a country house watching birds with her son. The former publisher of W and O, The Oprah magazine said that her current job is the “most entrepreneurial job she’s ever held.” She referred to her job at RD both as a “producer and a development officer.”
Being true to her title at RD, she is in the business of “planting seeds.” And this week Alston isplanting three new seeds, Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Connection, Best You and Fresh Home. Three new magazines but the “greatest of them all” is the Purpose Driven Connection. “These are exciting times, planting new seeds, finding new ways to do things and being involved in the biggest effort and investment of a new launch.” The Purpose Driven Connection is “The Bomb, The Big Thing” Alston said. “It requires a different level of confidence and a totally new model of publishing.”
Creating a “microphone to the world” was the genesis of the idea Alston presented to the Rev. Rick Warren. RD is a global company and Warren is global. RD is a multi-media and so is Warren. RD, the 3 billion dollar company has a giant marketing arm that can reach afar. “So, taking the message and vision of Rick Warren and putting the two power houses together, Purpose Driven Connection was born.” Warren has the content, the vision and the longevity. He is “an everyday visionaire” said Alston and we wanted to take that vision and content and create “an ongoing communication vehicle.”
Alston asked herself a series of questions regarding this ongoing vehicle. “How to disseminate the content? What is the best medium to do such a job? What is the best approach to create such a vehicle?” Well, the answer came in Alston’s vision of a new publishing model: the membership model. “We have the message, we have the audience, now we have to create the channel,” she said. So, a magazine alone was not enough, but a rather a bundle of information (a magazine, a video, a workbook, a website, etc) all aimed at members rather than just readers. “That bundle of information will provide a lot of value to the consumers and will have a much bigger value than the price the consumer will pay for the product.”
The Purpose Driven Connection is being launched with a circulation of 500,000 with the aim of reaching a million circulation by the end of the first year. The publishing model is based on a two-tier model. First tapping in the 100,000 plus churches that are affiliated with Rick Warren, than other churches offering them memberships in the Purpose Driven Connection. Direct mail and e-mail blasts and kits will be reaching those churches and their pastors inviting them to be members of the PDC. The other part is putting the magazine on the newsstands providing the same opportunity for folks to join the network. “This is a circulation driven model,” Alston said. “The focus is on building the membership first.” Next in the plans for the PDC and Alston is the launch next week of the “biggest Christian website ever built.”
You will think that the Purpose Driven Connection project should be keeping Alston busy 24/7. Well, think again. The mission-driven publisher with the purpose to reach customers who count is launching two other titles at the same time. Fresh Home and Best You are two new quarterlies that share one secret according to Alston. “The model is completely different. I am leveraging the assets of our global company and I am leveraging the content from other countries,” she said. “You can’t publish a new magazine today if we don’t find a better way of efficiently planting seeds.” Fresh Home is using re-purposed content from a sister magazine in Australia and Best You is doing the same from a sister publication in Canada. “We will not do it if it was not for the content re-purposing,” Alston said. “The cost will make it prohibitive in today’s marketplace. I have no other choice.”
Alston is using the newsstands as the “acid test” for those two new magazines and hoping that the “consumer demand” that their research showed will come true on the newsstands. Both magazines offer fresh (no pun intended) content to serve the best of you. This is the real world indeed, and those are real magazines. Alyce Alston is helping plant some new seeds to create a new publishing model. The time is right, and as Alston said “content is king” and “consumer demand” will be the key to open the new publishing kingdom doors.
No wonder Alyce Alston is a purpose driven publisher.