Friday, September 4, 2009

`Reader's Digest''s Hidden History--Part 8

(The following article originally appeared in the October 27, 1993 issue of the now-defunct alternative Lower East Side weekly, Downtown. Between 2007 and its 2011 bankruptcy, Reader’s Digest was owned by Citigroup board member Tim Collins’ Ripplewood Holdings’ private investment/leveraged buy-out firm. See below for parts 1 to 7 of article).

After Reader's Digest Founder DeWitt "Wally" Wallace started selling Reader’s Digest on U.S. newsstands in 1929, some of the editors and publishers who had been letting him reprint their magazine articles in condensed forms for free finally realized how profitable the Digest had become by that time. Some now began to view Reader’s Digest as a competing product on the newsstand. So to induce them to keep allowing Reader’s Digest to reprint articles from their magazines and to insure that imitators would not have access to a similar source of articles, Wallace signed exclusive reprint agreements with 35 other U.S. magazines in 1929, in which he agreed to now pay these magazines quite generously.

By 1934, 1.5 million copies of Reader’s Digest were being circulated in the U.S., including over 500,000 copies that were sold on U.S. newsstands. The magazine’s then-net profit exceeded $400,000 during the height of the Great Depression and by 1938 Reader’s Digest’s circulation had jumped to three million—the largest of any U.S. magazine at that time. By 1942, its U.S. circulation was five million. And by 1946, the U.S. circulation of Reader’s Digest was 9 million.

After 1939, the Reader’s Digest Association began publishing the international editions of its magazines in nine foreign languages, as well as in English, which the CIA apparently utilized as propaganda outlets following World War II. By 1947, the combined circulation of Reader’s Digest’s international editions exceeded 4.6 million. The nine foreign languages utilized were Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Arabic, Norwegian, Danish, Japanese, French and German. (end of part 8)

(Downtown 10/27/93)

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