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Reader's Digest

Current logo
Editor-in-chief Peggy Northrop
Circulation 7.1 million
First issue 1922
Company The Reader's Digest Association
Based in Chappaqua, New York, United States
ISSN 0034-0375

Reader's Digest is a monthly general-interest family magazine co-founded in 1922 by Lila Bell Wallace and DeWitt Wallace, and based in Chappaqua, New York, United States. For many years, Reader's Digest was the best-selling consumer magazine in the United States, losing that distinction in 2009 to Better Homes and Gardens. According to Mediamark Research, Reader's Digest reaches more readers with household incomes of $100,000+ than Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week and Inc. combined.[1] Global editions of Reader's Digest reach an additional 40 million people in more than 70 countries, with 50 editions in 21 languages. It has a global circulation of 17 million, making it the largest paid circulation magazine in the world. It is also published in braille, digital, audio, and a version in large type called Reader's Digest Large Print.

The magazine is compact, with its pages roughly half the size of most American magazines'. Hence, in the summer of 2005, the U.S. edition adopted the slogan, "America in your pocket." In January 2008, it was changed to "Life well shared."



logo used until 2007

Inception and growth

The magazine was started by Dewitt Wallace, while recovering from shrapnel wounds received in World War I. Wallace had the idea to gather a sampling of favorite articles on many subjects from various monthly magazines, sometimes condensing and rewriting them, and to combine them into one magazine.[2] Since its inception, Reader's Digest has maintained a conservative[citation needed] and anti-communist perspective on political and social issues.[3] The first international edition was published in the United Kingdom in 1938 and was sold at 2 shillings.

The Wallaces initially hoped the journal could provide $5,000 of net income. Mr. Wallace’s continuing correct assessment of what the potential mass-market audience wanted to read led to rapid growth. By 1929, the magazine had 290,000 subscribers and had a gross income of $900,000 a year. By the 40th anniversary of Reader’s Digest, there were 40 international editions, in 13 languages and Braille, and it was the largest-circulating journal in Canada, Mexico, Spain, Sweden, Peru and other countries, with a total international circulation of 23 million.[2]

The first "Word Power" column of the magazine was published in the January 1945 edition.[4] The author's name, Wilfred J. Funk, was disclosed in the February 1945 issue.[5] In 1952 the magazine published "Cancer by the Carton", a series of articles that linked smoking with lung cancer.[6] This first brought the dangers of smoking to public attention which, up to then, had ignored the health threats.

From 2002 through 2006, Reader's Digest conducted a vocabulary competition in schools throughout the United States called Reader's Digest National Word Power Challenge (NWPC). In 2007, the magazine said it had decided not to have the competition for the 2007–2008 school year, "but rather to use the time to evaluate the program in every respect, including scope, mission, and model for implementation."[7]

In 2006, the magazine published three more local-language editions in Slovenia, Croatia and Romania. In October 2007, the Digest expanded in Serbia. The magazine's licensee in Italy stopped publishing in December 2007. The magazine launched in The People's Republic of China in 2008.

For 2010, the U.S. edition of the magazine planned to decrease its circulation to 5.5 million, from 8 million, to publish 10 times a year rather than 12, and to increase digital offerings. It also planned to reduce its number of celebrity profiles and how-to features, and increase the number of inspiring spiritual stories and stories about the military.[8]

Business organization and ownership

The magazine's parent company, The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. (RDA), became a publicly traded corporation in 1990. As of 2010 RDA has reported a net loss each year since 2005[citation needed]. In March 2007, Ripplewood Holdings LLC led a consortium of private equity investors who bought the company through a leveraged buy-out for US$2.8 billion, financed primarily by the issuance of US$2.2 billion of debt.[2][2][8] Ripplewood invested $275 million of its own money, and had partners including Rothschild Bank of Zurich and GoldenTree Asset Management of New York. The private equity deal tripled the association's interest payments, to $148 million a year.[2]

On 24 August 2009 RDA announced it had filed with the U.S. Bankrupcty court a pre-arranged Chapter 11 bankruptcy, in order to continue operations, and to restructure the $2.2 billion debt undertaken by the leveraged buy-out transaction.[2][9][10] The company emerged from bankruptcy with the lenders exchanging debt for equity, and Ripplewood's entire equity investment was extinguished.[2]

Sweepstakes agreement

In 2001, 32 states attorneys general reached agreements with the company and other sweepstakes operators to settle allegations that they tricked the elderly into buying products because they were a "guaranteed winner" of a lottery. The settlement required the companies to expand the type size of notices in the packaging that no purchase is necessary to play the sweepstakes, and to:

  1. Establish a "Do Not Contact List" and refrain from soliciting any future "high-activity" customers unless and until Reader's Digest actually makes contact with that customer and determines that the customer is not buying because he or she thinks that the purchase will improve his or her chances of winning.
  2. Send letters to individuals who spend more than $1,000 in a six-month period telling them that they are not required to make purchases to win the sweepstakes, that making a purchase will not improve their chances of winning and that, in fact, all entries have the same chance to win whether or not the entry is accompanied by a purchase.[11][12][13]

The agreement adversely affected Reader's Digest ability to sustain its circulation in the U.S. Its 1970s peak circulation was 17 million U.S. subscribers. In 2009, the U.S. circulation was 8 million.[2]

Direct marketing

RDA offers many mail-order products included with "sweepstakes" or contests. U.S. Reader's Digest and the company's other U.S. magazines do not use sweepstakes in their direct mail promotions.

International editions

Although Reader's Digest was founded in the U.S., its international editions have made it the best-selling monthly magazine in the world. The magazine's worldwide circulation including all editions has reached 17 million copies and 70 million readers.

Reader's Digest is currently published in 52 editions and 35 languages and is available in over 100 countries, including Slovenia, Croatia, Romania, and the People's Republic of China in 2008.

Its international editions account for about 50% of the magazine's trade volume. In each market, local editors commission or purchase articles for their own market and share content with US and other editions. The selected articles are then translated by local translators and the translations edited by the local editors to make them match the "well-educated informal" style of the American edition.

Over the 87 years, the company has published editions in various languages in different countries, or for different regions.

Usually these editions started out as translations of the US version of the magazine, but over time many non-US editions became unique, providing local material more germane to local readers. Local editions that still publish the bulk of the American Reader's Digest are usually titled with a qualifier, such as the Portuguese edition, Selecções do Reader's Digest (Selections from Reader's Digest), or the Swedish edition, Reader's Digest Det Bästa (The Best of Reader's Digest).

The list is sorted by year of first publication.[14] Some countries had editions but no longer do; for example, the Danish version of Reader's Digest (Det Bedste) ceased publication in 2005 and was replaced by the Swedish version (Reader's Digest Det Bästa); as a result the Swedish edition covers stories for both countries. The Italian version (Selezione) ran for 60 years until it was shut down in 2007, and the Japanese edition ran from September 1946 until February 1986.

Arabic editions

The first Reader's Digest publication in the Arab World was printed in Egypt during Gamal Nasser's (1950s) regime. The license was eventually terminated. The second effort and the first Reader's Digest franchise agreement was negotiated through the efforts of Frederick Pittera, in 1976, an American entrepreneur, who sold the idea to Lebanon's former Foreign Minister, Dr. Lucien Dahdah, then son-in-law of Suleiman Franjeh, President of Lebanon. Dr. Dahdah partnered with Ghassan Al Tueni, (former Lebanon Ambassador to the United Nations, and publisher of Al Nahar newspaper, Beirut), in publishing Reader's Digest in the Arabic language. It was printed in Cairo for distribution throughout the Arab world under title Al- Mukhtar. In format, Al-Mukhtar was the same as the U.S. edition with only 75% of the editorial content. Dr. Philip Hitti, Chairman of Princeton University's Department of Oriental Languages and a team of Arabic advisors counseled on what would be of interest to Arabic readers. The publication of Al-Mukhtar was terminated by Reader's Digest in April 1993.

Canadian edition

The Canadian edition first appeared in February 1948, and today the vast majority of it is Canadian content. All major articles in the August 2005 edition and most of the minor articles were selected from locally-produced articles that matched the Digest style. There is usually at least one major American article in most issues.

"Life's Like That" is the Canadian name of "Life in These United States." All other titles are taken from the American publication. Recent "That's Outrageous" articles have been using editorials from the Calgary Sun.

Under new management—the new editor is Robert Goyette—the Canadian edition continues to publish.

Indian edition

The Indian edition was first published in 1954. Its circulation then was 40,000 copies. Today, the magazine is published in India by Living Media India Ltd., and sold over 600,000 copies monthly in 2008. It prints Indian and international articles.


Reader's Digest has published bi-monthly a series of softcover anthology books called Reader's Digest Select Editions (previously known as Reader's Digest Condensed Books) such as 700 Years of Classical Treasures: A Tapestry in Music and Words. During the 1970s, there was also a Reader's Digest Press which published full-length, original works of non-fiction.

See also


  1. ^ "Reader's Digest sold to private equity firm for $2.4bn". Times Online. Retrieved 24 October 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Segal, David (December 20, 2009). "A Reader’s Digest That Grandma Never Dreamed Of". New York Times. Retrieved December 20, 2009. 
  3. ^ Condensing the Cold War : Reader’s Digest and American Identity by Joanne P. Sharp. University of Minnesota Press,2000.
  4. ^ pages 29 and 103
  5. ^ Don R. Vaughan, Ph.D., vocabulary columnist
  6. ^ "CNN Interactive". Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  7. ^ "Reader's Digest National Word Power Challenge Program Announcement". Reader's Digest. Retrieved 2009-06-19. 
  8. ^ a b Stephanie Clifford (June 18, 2009). "Reader’s Digest Searches for a Contemporary Niche". New York Times. 
  9. ^ Reader's Digest Association - News & Releases
  10. ^ Reader’s Digest Plans Chapter 11 Filing - DealBook Blog -
  11. ^ "Reader's Digest Enters Into Multi-state Sweepstakes Agreement Agrees to Pay $6 Million in Consumer Restitution". Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  12. ^ "News & Alerts - California Dept. of Justice - Office of the Attorney General". 2001-03-08. Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  13. ^ Schultz, Ray (2001-03-08). "Reader's Digest Agrees to Sweeps Restrictions". Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  14. ^ "Reader's Digest Timeline". 2007-03-03. Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  15. ^ BBC: Reader's Digest UK in administration, 17 February 2010


  • John Bainbridge, Little Wonder. Or, the Reader's Digest and How It Grew, New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1945.
  • John Heidenry, Theirs Was the Kingdom: Lila and DeWitt Wallace and the Story of the Reader's Digest, New York/London: W.W. Norton, 1993
  • Samuel A. Schreiner, The Condensed World of the Reader's Digest, New York: Stein and Day, 1977.
  • James Playsted Wood, 1958: Of Lasting Interest: The Story of the Reader's Digest, Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1958.
  • Clem Robyns, "The Internationalisation of Social and Cultural Values: On the Homogenization and Localization Strategies of the Reader's Digest", in Jana Králová & Zuzana Jettmarová, Translation Strategies and Effects in Cross-Cultural Value Transfers and Shifts, Prague: Folia Translatologica, 83-92, 1994
  • Joanne P. Sharp, Condensing the Cold War: Reader's Digest and American Identity, University of Minnesota Press, 2000.
  • Joanne P. Sharp, Hegemony, popular culture and geopolitics: the Reader's Digest and the construction of danger, Political Geography, Elsevier, 1996.

External links


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