Reader’s Digest Looking to Unload Web’s Top Food Site? had become company's digital jewel

The struggles of Reader’s Digest magazine have grabbed headlines in recent years, but a food website may have been a bigger factor in Mary Berner’s departure as CEO of Reader’s Digest Association.

Berner is said to have clashed over the company’s direction with its new board, which is loaded with representatives from hedge funds and investment banks. The board named CFO Tom Williams to replace Berner, prompting speculation that the company is on a path to sell off some of its assets. One of those assets that could be sold is said to be, a homespun, user-generated recipe site that had become a bright spot in an otherwise still-troubled company.

RDA bought Allrecipes in 2006, before Berner’s arrival as CEO in 2007, when investors took the publishing company private. The deal was something of a coup for RDA, which outbid Yahoo in its $66 million purchase of the site, according to a source who was involved with the acquisition.

Seattle-based Allrecipes has more than doubled its traffic in that time, becoming one of the biggest food sites on the Web. In March, monthly uniques approached 17 million, making Allrecipes the top food site, per comScore. It also has become a digital test bed for RDA with the launch of paid subscription services.

Allrecipes was on the front burner recently, when Berner fielded an analyst’s question on a November conference call about selling the site, given the valuations being paid for digital properties. “Allrecipes is obviously a very hot topic right now,” Berner responded. "We are all very focused on it."