Reader's Digest Association to Sell Every Day with Rachael Ray

Once-Soaring Title Doesn't Allow for Brand Extensions, Company Says

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Reader's Digest Association plans to sell Every Day with Rachael Ray, the onetime high-flying food magazine that has recently lost a little altitude, saying its agreement with Ms. Ray limited the platforms that the company could play in beyond the page.

"Because our agreement limited our participation to producing just a magazine, we were unable to expand the brand and its content across multiple platforms," said Robert E. Guth, president and CEO at Reader's Digest Association, in a statement announcing the sale and other changes. "Going forward, it was not a fit with our master brand strategy."

Reader's Digest Association has been facing its own struggles. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2009 and emerged in 2010. But Mr. Guth was named CEO last month, saying the company wasn't "performing to its potential" and would need "significant changes." He succeeded Tom Williams, who had only held the post since April, when Mary Berner left over a differing vision with the company's new board.

The company reported a 15.1% decline in operating profit in the second quarter, blaming factors including "declining advertising revenue for our Every Day with Rachael Ray title."

Reader's Digest Association introduced Every Day with Rachael Ray in October 2005 to a warm reception and continued to see its ad pages outperform the market through last year. (It made Advertising Age's Magazine A-List in 2008. But ad pages in this year's issues from January through October plunged 21.6% from their level in the same period in 2010, according to the Media Industry Newsletter, while monthlies as a whole saw ad pages slip just 1.5% and Hearst's Food Network Magazine expanded ad pages 13.8%.

Every Day with Rachael Ray saw first-half newsstand sales fall 16.9%, according to the magazine's report with the Audit Bureau of Circulations, a sharper drop than the industry as a whole.

Cooking and culinary magazines also remain fiercely competitive, not least because food ad pages have plunged this year, falling 16.2% in the period from January through September, the largest decline of any major ad category, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.

Reader's Digest Association also said today that Liz Vaccariello, editor in chief of Every Day with Rachael Ray, would become chief content officer and editor in chief for the Reader's Digest Community, a new post intended to provide a unified creative voice across titles and platforms. Peggy Northrop, editor in chief at the flagship Reader's Digest magazine since 2007, is leaving the company.

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