Mag Bag: RDA to Launch 2 New Titles

Mens Health Living coverRDA to Launch 2 New Titles

Thumbing its nose at poor economic conditions, Reader's Digest Association is planning to launch two new magazine titles this winter. The first, Best You, focuses on health; the second, Fresh Home, is a do-it-yourself title targeting young married adults. Best You is scheduled to launch January 6, and Fresh Home for Feb. 24. Both titles will launch with a newsstand distribution of about 300,000, a newsstand cover price of $4.99, and a quarterly publishing schedule.

The two new titles are actually modeled on magazines published abroad by RDA. Best You borrows elements of Best Health, a Canadian title--with coverage of exercise, healthy diet and beauty tips. Fresh Home is based on Family Handyman, an Australian title--and will focus on cost-effective home improvements that appeal to young, relatively well-heeled couples looking for classy home makeovers.



The launches are a bold move, given the woes of the magazine industry in general and RDA in particular. According to the most recent figures from MIN Online, flagship title Reader's Digest has seen ad sales fall 11.73% through August. Meanwhile, comparing the first six months of 2008 to the same period last year, total paid subscriptions declined 16.1% to just over 8.1 million, and newsstand sales dropped 11.9% to 338,416. Earlier this year, the publication slashed its rate base from 10 million to 8 million.

According to Mediamark Research and Intelligence, the title's total audience declined from 42.6 million in spring 2003 to 37.8 million in spring 2008, a roughly 11% drop.

Both new mags will contend with fierce competition in their content categories. Best You launches just three months after two new newspaper-distributed magazines covering the same topics: Spry, from the Publishing Group of America, and HealthyStyle, from competitor Parade. On the home improvement front, most shelter titles are down in the first half of 2008, with 17 out of 25 seeing ad pages drop, for an overall average decline of 5%.

Rodale Plans Second Edition of Men's Health Living

Building on the success of the first edition in December 2007, Rodale is trotting out another special issue of Men's Health Living, a shelter and lifestyle magazine with a newsstand price of $5.99. The first edition sold half of its newsstand run of 375,000--considered a highly successful debut, and prompting the company to plan an expanded run of 450,000 for the second round. Last year, the brand also published a special fashion insert on jeans called the Denim Guide.

McPheters Finds Increase In Public Readership

Magazines in public places like doctors' offices and lobbies make up roughly half of all magazine reading time, according to McPheters & Co., which conducted a study of public readership last year, supplemented by a survey of 2,700 people via mail this April. McPheters also found that 87% of people who read magazines in public said they pay as much attention to these issues as they do to ones delivered to their homes. The study may give a boost to magazine publishers that make heavy use of public-place distribution to boost their total circulation figures. Traditionally, advertisers have been skeptical of public-place copies, which fall under the "verified circulation" category in FAS-FAX reports from the Audit Bureau of Circulations. They sometimes accuse publishers of simply using them to inflate their circulation figures.

BusinessWeek Launches... Food Blog?

Yes, executives are people, too. Guessing that its readers like good food as much as anyone--maybe more, if they have a corporate credit is launching a blog called "Working Lunch" by senior writer Michael Orey, who usually covers legal affairs. The blog will cover the high and low ends of dining. Orey will write about meals, restaurants and recipes.

Forbes Publisher Steps Down

Jim Berrien is giving up his roles as president and publisher for the Forbes Magazine Group, effective by the end of the year. Berrien will continue with the company as chairman of Forbes magazine. His departure comes after a tough first half of the year for the magazine, which is suffering from the same secular downturn affecting other business titles. During January-June, ad pages fell 12.6% to 1,307, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. Similarly, BusinessWeek is down 14.8%, Entrepreneur 4.3%, Fortune Small Business 14.3%, Kiplinger's Personal Finance 15.3%, and SmartMoney 21.9%.

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