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Undriven Rick Warren mag dumped in the shredder [Updated]

Rick Warren's defunct magazine

Update –>

Unable to inspire enough subscribers, Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Connection quarterly magazine has been sent to the shredder by its partner, the bankrupt Readers Digest Association (RDA).

Launched as one of RDA’s “most important and far-reaching ventures ever,” after four print issues the $29-a-year subscriptions magazine and service is closing down its print product “due to a lack of subscriptions.” The Christmas issue ends it.

Next, the spin … wait for it … .

Yes, later there’s another view. The mag didn’t fail (What happenened to “lack of subscriptions”?).

Actually, the Purpose Driven Connection’s Web site is so successful they’re responding to reader feedback by going all-digital.

Translation: Readers wouldn’t buy the mag but Rick and RDA think they can make a few dollars off a Web site. Yes, now that the magazine’s editor Frank Lalli – veteran editor of Money and George magazines – is out on his keister (firing staff saves money), no doubt with others.

Warrens’ version of the spin is painfully embarrassing to read:

Our biggest discovery was learning that people prefer reading our content online rather than in print, because it is more convenient and accessible .. [As if the newspaper industry worldwide hadn’t noticed.] … So when we heard the feedback and noticed subscriptions to the print magazine lagging behind Internet usage, in spite of strong retail newsstand sales, we jumped at the chance to go all digital. Thankfully, Reader’s Digest was willing to help us make the transition. [Maybe recover some of the money lost in that bath they took on your print mag?]

What would you think of the Christian Science Monitor’s journalism if they had spun similar tales in October 2008, rather than explaining how print-publication losses left them little choice and staging their transition to full digital

Addendum

In June, while reviewing the 94 magazines owned by RDA, president and CEO Mary Berner held the Purpose Driven Connection venture up as the company’s model for future success. The New York Times Stephanie Clifford reported:

For about $30, subscribers get a quarterly magazine with religious workbooks, along with DVDs featuring Mr. Warren, and membership in a social-networking Web site, including tips on what to pray for each week. It is available through churches and at Wal-Marts, and Ms. Berner wants to introduce other unorthodox distribution strategies.
“That is the model going forward,” she said.

“It’s an unabashed commitment to and focus on a market that’s ignored but is incredibly powerful,” she said.

If the new direction works, Ms. Berner said, she may consider introducing magazines around Rick Warren-like religious personalities, along with increasing the amount of spiritual content in Reader’s Digest itself.
“As far as I’m concerned, I don’t care what the religion is, what the spirituality is, as long as it’s legitimate, there’s a built-in community and it’s global,” Ms. Berner said.

By mid-August, all the other board members had resigned and Berner was leading the company through bankruptcy and contemplating a cut in pay to $1.5 million a year.
RDA’s interactive division was reorganized in September, although Purpose Driven Connection was characterized as “in development stages” at the time.

Finally came the announcement that there were “too few subscribers,” attended by a refusal to giving any numbers defining what “too few” is. with the Associated Press reporting:

Brian Bird, managing editor of the magazine and Web site, said subscriptions were between 2,500 and 5,000 per month.

“I imagine (Reader’s Digest officials) were hoping for this to explode, and it didn’t explode,” Bird said. “But it’s had slow, steady growth. It takes a long time for anything to really grow, especially in a competitive media culture.”

Death of the print product was spun by Warren into a fortuitous transition to all-digital, although limited-value but publicly available measures suggest that the site may be steadily losing traffic. Alexa (based on the behavior of users with the Alexa toolbar added to their browsers) indicates declines in traffic rank, reach and page views .

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November 5, 2009 - Posted by | Religion, WWW | , , ,

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