Reader's Digest: New Directions. the Giant, Cash-Rich Publisher Has Targeted 'Affinity Group' Magazines for Growth; Synergies with the Digest Abound

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The giant, cash-rich Publisher has targeted 'affinity group' magazines for growth; synergies with the Digest abound

During a recent roundtable with FOLIO:, Thomas M. Kenney, president of the

newly formed Reader's Digest Magazine Publishing Group, and five other executives revealed how the group is structured, and discussed plans for merging its four U.S. special interest magazines into an operation with the flagship publication, Reader's Digest.

The other spokespeople for Reader's Digest are as follows:

Michael Brennan, Publishing Director, who joined Reader's Digest Publications in january. Most recently, he was a vice president with the McNamee Consulting


Greg Carey, who was named publisher of The Family Handyman in 1984, when it was owned by The Webb Company. The magazine was acquired by Reader's Digest in 1987.

Kate Greer, editor in chief, New Choices for The Best Years. She came to New Choices from Better Homes and Gardens, where she had been managing editor for 10 years.

Margaret Staats Sim-inons, who became editor in chief of Travel Holiday in May 1989. Previously, she was the Features Editor at Conde Nast Traveler.

Sheila Wyle, publisher of American Health for two years, has a background in sales development. She previously held positions with Newsweek and Penthouse magazines. LOVE: Why has Reader's Digest, the ultimate publisher of mass magazines, become involved in special interest magazines? What are the overall

corporate objectives that Reader's Digest has for these special interest magazines?

KENNEY: From a corporate point of view there are four objectives: First, that they eventually provide positive cashflow and a good return on investment. This is a purely financial objective-that we make a buck with these magazines. And we Will.

Second, that they contribute to our mailing lists in one way or another, so that we can either improve our lists or add names to the lists that we sell other Reader's Digest products to. The magazines are in what we call "affinity groups"-like health, travel and do-it-yourself-that are going to fit the list dynamics of our operation. These lists are used to promote books, records, videotapes and other products that Reader's Digest produces.

The third objective is that each of the books be run entrepreneurially.

New Choices: Focusing on the mid-life age group

GREER: As you know, we have changed the name of the magazine from 50 Plus to New Choices. 50 Plus was a very copy intensive, gray magazine that was aimed at everyone over 50 and actually edited to people probably about 70.

In redirecting New Choices, we have agreed that we want it to be read by both men and women and to focus on mid-life, about ages 45 to 64, because that is a manageable editorial bite. We can focus there and serve that group well. Plus, it's an opportunity to go where no-one else is going.

There are people doing the mature market, but there was really nothing down the middle. We are treating this age group as a valid, absolute life stage, and concentrating on fitness, nutrition and improving the quality of life. We are not treating this life stage as something over the hill by addressing things like nursing homes, cataracts, or how to live on social security.

The change has also included a substantial investment in color, photography and artwork. The redesigned issue came out in April. What I find interesting is that this very different magazine was produced by the same staff, with the addition of three new people - myself, a son in fashion and a creative director.

"It's interesting that this very different magazine was produced by the same staff, and three new people: myself, a fashion person and creative director."

-Kate Greer, editor in chief,

New Choicesfor the Best years.

Reader's Digest wanted to have an additional arm in the company that does run very entrepreneurially--one that. …