Meredith to Buy RDA’s ‘Rachael Ray’ Mag

Liz Vaccariello replaces Peggy Northrop at 'Reader's Digest'

Meredith Corp. reached an agreement in principle to buy Every Day With Rachael Ray from Reader’s Digest Association. 

Meredith adds Rachael Ray to a group of food-focused media properties, which it's been expanding to deepen its reach with female consumers. It recently launched; bought EatingWell Media Group; and introduced six new special interest food titles. 

Hitting on an issue that's challenged other magazine joint ventures, RDA CEO Robert Guth said that Rachael Ray didn't fit the company because its agreement limited it to producing the magazine, which kept it from expanding the brand across other platforms.

"Going forward, it was not a fit with our master brand strategy," he said in an announcement. RDA is working with the TV personality's representatives at Watch to find a buyer.

At the same time, RDA said it would move its editor, Liz Vaccariello, over to the flagship Reader's Digest. The current editor, Peggy Northrop, is stepping down after four years in the position.

As chief content officer and editor-in-chief, Vaccariello will oversee Reader’s Digest’s books and Web division in addition to the magazine and report directly to Dan Lagani, RDA’s president, North America. That’s a change from the past structure; Northrop had reported to the CEO.

The company has gone through upheaval at the top lately, having replaced its CEO twice in the past several months. It reportedly has put its assets on the block following a series of financial setbacks in recent years.

RDA drafted Vaccariello to Rachael Ray to expand its presence on TV. She oversaw a redesign of the magazine this past spring, which had been losing ground to Hearst's Food Network Magazine. She previously had been the high-profile editor of Rodale's Prevention and co-author of the popular Flat Belly Diet!

Northrop was a rising star in the magazine business when former RDA CEO Mary Berner hired her away from Meredith’s More magazine. Northrop modernized Reader’s Digest and led it to the American Society of Magazine Editors’ prestigious General Excellence honor in 2009. But the parent company was forced to make deep cuts in the recession. Reader’s Digest returned to its roots as an aggregator of others’ content, which also allowed it to reduce its expenses.

Northrop will continue to have an advisory role with the company, as international editor at large. She said she was looking forward to guiding Reader’s Digest’s international business as well as spending time helping her family’s business, the Observer Publishing Co. in Washington, Pa.

“I’m feeling quite sanguine,” she said. “I’ve accomplished so many of the things I wanted to accomplish in the past four years. Even though I’ve had the title of international editor, I haven’t been able to do any of that job.”