Media: Reader's Digest turns the corner

A year on from the clutches of administration, one would expect nothing more than a skeletal team, a threadbare magazine and a race to the exit. But this is not the case at Reader's Digest.

Instead of job-hunting, editor Gill Hudson is celebrating the first rise in the magazine's circulation for 17 years, to 433,353. ABC figures for the second half of 2010 reported a 7.4 per cent increase compared with the first six months of the year. PROs should take note.

In a bid to maintain this momentum and as part of a three-year plan to hit a target readership of 700,000, Hudson has brought a number of high-profile columnists on board.

Former British GQ editor James Brown joined as celebrity columnist in November, while Martin Hughes-Games, A. N. Wilson and Stuart Maconie will begin writing on wildlife, books and music respectively in the May issue.

Hudson is actively trying to change the view that Reader's Digest is a relic confined to dentist waiting rooms and outpatient clinics.

In September, the revamped management team led by David Titmuss kicked off a £3m marketing drive for the title and introduced its pages to the Apple empire. Reader's Digest became the UK's first publication to launch a version for the iPad.

For PROs who have written the magazine off, the stats alone may change minds. The average reading time is 65 minutes, each issue is read four to five times and only 25 per cent are thrown away or recycled. As Hudson points out: 'The nations' houses are lined with Reader's Digest.'

Howard Bowden, head of news at Clarion Communications, says: 'In recessionary times, consumers are more inclined to buy brands they know and trust, that have been around for a while - Reader's Digest certainly falls into that category.'

'Reader's Digest has done a lot to reach out to a younger audience and embrace social media, with 10,000 followers on Twitter. Innovation is always key to reinvigorating yourself,' says Rick Guttridge, MD of Smoking Gun PR.

He places Reader's Digest up there with the quality monthlies between Saga, Women & Home, Good Housekeeping and Harper's Bazaar.

'It is not your high-end fashion or glamour, but it is not as grey as Saga - there is more fun in it. There are plenty of opportunities to have brands featured.'

The editorial scope is wide, from international stories to big health pieces.

'The best-read section is 1,001 things, which explains how to do anything, and we try to get good human interest stories,' says Hudson.

If PROs want to get their content in Reader's Digest, they should remember it goes on sale in the month on the cover and goes to press three weeks earlier. Ideas need to be pitched six to eight weeks before the sale date. Hudson advises: 'The earlier you get in, the bigger the story.'

QUICK FACTS

Circulation: 433,353 (Source: ABC, July-December 2010)

Publisher: Viva Direct

Did you know? In 1952, Reader's Digest became the first title to draw attention to the dangers of smoking in an article headlined 'Cancer by the carton.'

Contact: Editorial assistant Eleanor Rose; Features editor Simon Hemelryk; firstname_surname@readersdigest.co.uk.

A MINUTE WITH ... GILL HUDSON, EDITOR, READER'S DIGEST

- What type of stories should PR professionals pitch?

The three key questions are: Why this? Why now? Why Reader's Digest? Our readers love to learn, so it has to have fascinating facts, a new way of looking at things or great conversation starters. At the moment, we are looking for great individual stories of people who have done something amazing, dangerous or interesting. The kind of story that leaves one feeling moved and inspired.

- Who reads Reader's Digest and what grabs their attention?

Our core readers are 40- to 60-year-olds, so make the story interesting for them. But a story can still be relevant outside of that, because the issue could affect a grandchild and that would be of interest to our readers. Most importantly, stories need to have huge appeal but still focus on our core audience.

- When is the best time for PROs to make contact?

Basically, any time. We are always in overdrive. However, please try to avoid Mondays.

- How should PROs make contact?

Because we have so many emails to sift through, it helps us enormously if there is some clue in the email address or subject so that we know it is going to be interesting and relevant for us.

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