Reader’s Digest Revamps, Thinks Global

Having chopped its massive rate base by 20 percent to 8 million and started selling ads on the back cover, Reader’s Digest enters the next phase of dusting off its image.

The veteran print brand had updated its logo, fonts and column names with the January issue, when Jackie Leo was still editor. She was replaced after the parent company went private last year under CEO Mary Berner’s leadership.

The pocket-sized magazine is still full of trademark uplifting stories. With the June issue, Peggy Northrop, who replaced Leo in November, is imparting more service and a global feel to the title that once bore the tagline “America in Your Pocket” (the new tagline is “Life Well Shared”). The idea is to drive home the attributes like heroes, community and inspiration that are core to the title’s DNA but that haven’t been strongly communicated to advertisers, executives said. “While being current, I want to get that word ‘inspiring’ on the cover with every single issue,” said Northrop, who is credited with making Meredith Corp.’s More a big hit with over-40 women.

New service sections include The Digest, an aggregation of information from multiple news sources; how-to section 13 Things; and Quick Study, a four-page primer on a news subject. The June issue kicks off a series of surveys related to the presidential election, while a new regular feature, 4 Ways of Looking…, looks at everyday practices around the world.

“We need to realize how much we are part of a global community,” Northrop said. In addition to running an international story in each issue, she plans to start picking up articles from RD’s many overseas editions.

Along with the changes in the June issue, on stands May 20, the Web site will soft launch a new look May 5. The site will be organized around seven channels including humor, advice and health and feature daily content, video and more ways for readers to interact, via polls, and quizzes and cause-related challenges.

Parlaying the changes into ad dollars remains a challenge. Through June, ad pages declined 14.1 percent to 475, per Mediaweek Monitor. Publisher Jeff Wellington said spending in food, toiletries, retail and auto is up this year, but not enough to offset a deep decline in pharma. The title’s median age (52.7 per the fall MRI) also remains an issue, noted Bill Bell, group media strategy director, Lowe N.Y.: “Young moms are the ones who are making food and toiletries purchase decisions.”