Reader's Digest Struggles To Gain Financial Balance

The Reader's Digest Association may have emerged from bankruptcy last year, but the company is struggling to put its finances on firm footing, as revenues tumbled 22% to $326 million in the first quarter. These declines were attributed to lower ad revenue at Reader's Digest, Every Day with Rachael Ray, and affiliated publications, as well as the closure of some businesses since last year.

Total revenue for Reader's Digest, Reader's Digest Best You, RD Large Print and RD Select Editions -- together comprising the Reader's Digest Community -- slid from $44.1 million to $40.8 million, for a 21% drop. RDA Lifestyle Communities, which includes Every Day with Rachael Ray, saw revenue tumble 18% to $73.6 million.

According to the Publishers Information Bureau, total ad pages at Reader's Digest actually increased 7.1% in the first quarter, to 157, but this was apparently offset by declines at other publications, including RD Large Edition, where ad pages fell 22.5% to 30.

Every Day with Rachael Ray saw ad pages fall 9.2% to 107, and Taste of Home (another RDA Lifestyle Communities title) plunged 34.1% to 26 pages.

The company managed to trim costs (but also revenues) with the sale of the U.K. edition of Reader's Digest to Better Capital, a British private equity investor, in April 2010. Planned publications fell under the cost-cutting ax as the company struggled to exit bankruptcy in February 2010.

This year has also seen its share of shakeups. In April, former RDA President and CEO Mary Berner stepped down after four years on the job to be succeeded by Tom Williams, previously the SVP and CFO.

Berner took the reins at RDA in March 2007, when the magazine publisher was acquired for $2.8 billion by Ripplewood Holdings, LLC, marking the end of 17 years as a publicly traded company for RDA. She previously served as president of Fairchild Publications, a division of Conde Nast.

In August 2009 Berner was still forced to take RDA into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after it failed to make a $27 million payment on $1.6 billion of senior secured debt.

1 comment about "Reader's Digest Struggles To Gain Financial Balance".
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  1. Jay Mattlin from JAM Research, May 17, 2011 at 9:26 a.m.

    How is a decline from $44.1 million to $40.8 million a 20% drop? It's more like 7.5%.

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