Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Saving Reader's Digest . . .

BoSacks Speaks Out: I had no idea that DeWitt Wallace who conceived of Reader's Digest was such a visionary. Please read the article below and send me back your thoughts. I think that the 87 year old wisdom of DeWitt Wallace displayed below, could help save our industry today. I have been preaching for over a decade, that the path to our success will be in developing addictive content. I have my own particular definition about that, but I am in love with Mr. Wallace's excellent interpretation. I truly wish I could have had the opportunity to have a cup of coffee and a conversation with him about the industry.

Sometimes Samir Husni and I are at very opposite ends of magazine punditry. Today we are in total agreement. I must mark that down in my calendar.

"The literature at the top says Reader's Digest but it is not. If you look at the literature, it says USA Direct Inc. What they do is say you have won and of course everyone knows Reader's Digest so they assume it's legitimate."

Jeannie Hoskins

Saving Reader's Digest . . .
By Samir Husni http://mrmagazine.wordpress.com/

I know what people say about free advice, but while recovering from sinus surgery the news about the two million cut in circulation at Reader's Digest and the plan to sell the back cover of the magazine to advertisers sent me back to the early years of Reader's Digest and to the prototype issue and first issue of the magazine.

I do not know whether it is the hospital connection that brought to mind the link with Reader's Digest beginnings (DeWitt Wallace conceived RD on his hospital bed in France) or the recent news, but in any case I went to my magazine collection and pulled out the prototype issue and first issue of RD from Jan. 1920 and Feb. 1922 and guess what? I found the cure for all the ills of Reader's Digest today. DeWitt Wallace referred to RD in his prototype issue as the "Pocket University" which "will enable you to keep yourself educated in the truest sense; it will yield immeasurable satisfaction in giving you a sense of being well-informed and well-read."

Wallace's plan for the magazine was to be "of 100% Educational Interest- no fiction, no advertisements, no articles on purely transient topics and no articles of limited or specialized appeal." His wife Lila defined the nature of such articles in the introduction to the first issue. She described the articles in RD as such: "Each article of enduring value and interest - today, next month, or a year hence; such articles as one talks about and wishes to remember." Elsewhere in that first issue the editors wrote, "No articles of purely momentary interest - every article a worth while one, worthy of a permanent place in the storehouse of the mind."

It is amazing as I flip through the pages of Reader's Digest today I can't but ask, Is there anything left from the magazine concept that the Wallace's created? Is any of the articles "worthy of a permanent place" in the reader's mind? To save Reader's Digest one only needs to go back and read those two issues from the 20s . . . the concept is still applicable today as it was then . . . The problem is not with the circulation or the advertising. Reader's Digest problem is in its content. Be true to that mission statement of the past and bring back that "Pocket University" and you may see the cure of most of the ills of the magazine. John Travolta and the cures of back pain will not do it. Almost all the articles in the July issue of the magazine are of "purely momentary interest." Once more it is the problem with the content and not the medium. I hope someone is reading, because I know the Wallace's are turning in their graves as they see what happened to their beloved magazine. It is not too late to save "The one magazine that is preeminently worth keeping- and binding- for future reference and enjoyment." So says the words of the founders in their prototype issue. They are worth repeating.

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