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Will the Reader's Digest woes in the US hit India edition?

By Sumantha Rathore , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | February 20, 2013
The problems in the United States have been isolated and international editions, including India, should stay unaffected.

Reader' Digest US has filed twice for bankruptcy in a span of four years. Reader's Digest's parent company, RDA Holding, has this time mentioned in the court filing that it held about $1.1 billion in assets and under $1.2 billion in debt. The 91-year-old publication, in 2009, had filed for bankruptcy for the first time. A year after that it was under the control of lenders, including JPMorgan Chase.

Reader's Digest

Reader's Digest has 49 editions across the world and out which India edition licensed to India Today Group is one. In an official statement, Robert E. Guth, the company's chief executive, mentioned, "After considering a wide range of alternatives, we believe this course of action will most effectively enable us to maintain our momentum in transforming the business and allow us to capitalise on the growing strength and presence of our outstanding brands and products." The move is aimed at cutting $465 million in debt and shifting the focus from print to electronic media.

Officials of the magazine in India were unavailable for comment. However, in response to an emailed question from afaqs!, Tom Becker, spokesperson for Reader's Digest says, "The Chapter 11 filing is limited to the US business. No international operations are included in the filing and, as such, the international operations are not part of the Chapter 11 process. All Reader's Digest publications continue to be marketed and published in all of our regions, including India. Our readers in India will see no change as a result of the action taken by the US company."

Sanchayeeta Verma

Afaqs! spoke to media planners on what they thought of the development. The Indian edition of Reader's Digest is published by India Today Group.

Sanchayeeta Verma, GM South, Maxus says, "As of now we understand that Readers Digest will continue with its India edition and life will run as usual. As per the magazine's parent company this move is to reduce debts and focus on growing online sales." She adds that since they actively use digital versions of offline publications in their brand media campaigns, therefore, Readers Digest will be an interesting option to look at, should it develop a strong digital presence.

The magazine no longer has the clout it once had, even in India, and the latest development won't help matters, says a media expert, adding, "It is surviving in India because of the might of the India Today group."

R S Suriyanarayanan, associate vice-president, Initiative Media, feels that changing with times is the key to staying afloat in the media industry. "When RD was launched in India media options were limited. Things have changed now. Media touch points have increased manifold since the time they launched in India and the pattern of media consumption has also changed."

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