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The “More Conservative” Reader’s Digest! 5 miles of separation.

July 1, 2009

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I am sure you’ve read the reports that Reader’s Digest is cutting its rate base from 8 million to 5.5 million and its frequency from 12 issues a year to 10. According to media reports the magazine is also “reducing its coverage on celebrities and how-to features and boosting the number of inspirational, spiritual stories, in a move that is taking it away from years of attempting to appeal to the broadest possible audience to a focus on a more conservative readership.”

What seems like anticipating the move to a “more conservative” approach, Reader’s Digest magazine opted to have two covers for its July issue. The one I bought at Walmart had the “Best of America” cover, the one I bought at Kroger had the “50 Secrets Your Dentist Won’t Tell You.” Now, my hometown of Oxford, Mississippi is not the big metropolitan area like Memphis, TN. Our population is less than 15,000 and the distance between Kroger (on the east side of town) and Walmart (on the west side of town) is less than 5 miles. The same people shop at both stores most of the time. So what can a test like this project about the future covers and directions of Reader’s Digest? I have no answer to this question and I am sure the folks at Reader’s Digest, if this test in my small town is any indicator, will have no answers neither. A 5 miles of separation is no indication of a “test” in small town America, the bread and butter of such a magazine like Reader’s Digest.

My only hope is that RD will finally settle on one direction and have, for a change, a Purpose Driven publishing model. This is the third major change of venue for the magazine since 2007. Check here for my earlier prescription for a better Reader’s Digest publishing model back in July of 2007 and the response from then editor in chief Jackie Leo.

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