Bankrupt RDA Closes Its “Biggest Magazine Venture Ever”

purposedriven09PURPOSE DRIVEN CONNECTION magazine, published in partnership between Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren and the Reader’s Digest Association (RDA), will go online only starting in January 2010.

RDA called the much-hyped launch earlier this year one of its “most important and far-reaching ventures ever.”  It was to consist of “an inspirational multimedia platform” that included a magazine, a membership club, DVDs and a “Facebook for Christians.”  Magazine industry

Mary Berner

Mary Berner, CEO

magazine Folio: wrote on Nov 24, 2008: “Mary Berner, RDA president and CEO [pictured], called the venture ‘an expression of our vision for the company’s future,’ and hopes to strike up similar multiplatform deals moving forward.  ‘Platforms are things that we excel in: Magazine creation and publishing, and, increasingly, digital media.”

Well, it seems that the Chapter 11-dwelling publisher has something to learn.  Its flagship publication, READER’S DIGEST, has been losing readers for years.  And now, the audience, which made Warren’s book “The Purpose Driven Life” a runaway bestseller, would go to the website but was not ready to fork out $9.99 for a subscription, or $29.99 for a full membership including the quarterly magazine, DVDs with each issue, study guides and access to its web site.

Pastor Warren has been hard at spinning the situation his way.  EarthTimes.org quotes Warren saying: “So when we heard the feedback and noticed subscriptions to the print magazine lagging behind Internet usage, in spite of strong retail newsstand sales, we jumped at the chance to go all digital.”  And: “Impressive reader feedback has prompted us to focus all our energies on our digital format, so our content can be expanded, international, interactive and free,” Warren explained.  “The positive response from readers was so overwhelming we didn’t want the content to be limited only to Americans who could afford a subscription to a magazine.”

Shutting down is already under way.  Frank Lalli, who served as editor-in-chief of the print edition, left the company last month after closing the Christmas edition, a spokesperson said.  RDA said it will host the magazine’s web site through the first quarter of 2010.  Deborah Caldwell will continue to serve as web editor through the transition.  RDA’s involvement with the site after the first quarter next year remains unknown, she said.  The company is offering to refund unused print subscriptions to the magazine.

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One Response

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