RDA Bows Three Titles With Single Sponsors in Mind

Following a year of setbacks including a rate-base cut for its flagship Reader’s Digest, the folding of Purpose Driven Connection magazine and a bankruptcy filing, Reader’s Digest Association is getting ready to launch some new magazines, this time in the health arena.

But in a departure from the traditional (and very downtrodden) magazine model, RDA is hoping to sell these titles as part of a single-sponsored package that will appeal to marketers in a way that mere pages can’t these days.

The brands—Reverse Diabetes, walk it off and No Fail Weight Loss—will all have a magazine at their hub. The titles will publish four times a year with a newsstand distribution of 500,000 and a $4.99 cover price.

They’ll be surrounded with Web sites, e-newsletters, books, clubs and other add-ons, depending on what the advertiser wants.

Alyce Alston, who as head of RDA’s Emerging Businesses unit, which is launching the new brands, said she’s seeking sponsors that want to align themselves with those health verticals. “Marketers want to own their own franchise. They’re owning their events, their mobile applications,” Alston said. “And they’re either selling products or owning markets they want to affiliate with.”

To be sure, health is a hot topic these days. walk it off already published two test issues in ’09, which had a roughly 35 percent sell-through rate, prompting RDA to launch an accompanying Web site and walking club. In the case of Reverse Diabetes, RDA hopes to continue the success of a growing diabetes-books business that’s made $30 million for the company, per Alston.

While marketers are looking to reach consumers on a variety of platforms, finding advertisers that are a good fit for these products could be complicated, according to one buyer who’s not authorized to speak for attribution. The client has to have multiple messages to justify what’s likely to be a big marketing expense. Different divisions of the client would likely have to be involved, and the client’s needs would have to be aligned with the different audiences reached by each platform. Further, clients usually want plenty of say in the editorial, which brings up perception problems of single-sponsored magazines.

Debbie Sklar, director of print services, Horizon Media, said the larger issue is getting attention for a small-print product: “You’re going to be very vertical, and there’s not going to be a lot of opportunity to get on a plan when budgets are being cut.”

Still, Alston said that while she seeks sponsors, she’s counting on consumers to sustain the titles—an approach befitting times when print spending is still scarce. “I know from creating walk it off, people still want to buy something that’s packaged well and looks good, and they’re willing to pay for it.”