Bringing Down the House of Reiman: Roy Reiman’s on the record response

November 30, 2007

I have never written a blog that generated more responses and counter responses than the one I wrote on Bringing Down the House of Reiman one “Ripple” at a Time take one and take two. My friend Bob Sacks picked up the blog on his electronic newsletter Bosacks.com and even more people responded to the blog including Ellen Morgenstern, director of public relations at Reader’s Digest Association. Well, the man himself who founded Reiman publications has decided to respond to all the responses regarding my piece on Reiman publications. What follows is Roy’s response (on the record for the first time) to Ms. Morgenstern and others. Following his response is Bob Sacks’ entry regarding the matter and Ellen Morgenstern’s letter to Bob regarding the same issue. I look forward to other “on the record” comments about this important issue regarding magazine publishing, ownership and the possibility to publish magazines in this day and age with or without advertising.

Roy Reiman on setting the record straight:

“The writing has been on the wall for some time that a ‘no advertising’ model no longer works in this day and age. Even Roy Reiman’s new magazine venture, ‘Our Iowa’, accepts advertising.” –Ellen Morgenstern, Reader’s DigestThere she goes again–contending that a “no ad” magazine couldn’t make it today…and contending that even I no longer believe so, because we’re accepting advertising in Our Iowa.I’ve watched from the sidelines and tried to stay out of this fray, because I recognize that when someone buys a company, the buyer has the right to be wrong. But after seeing the quote above–for the second time at that–I can no longer resist sharing my opinion. I’ve concluded that if I don’t respond, it will not only add credence to her comment, but may appear I have no opinion or don’t care what’s happening to my old company, when the truth is I care a great deal.I don’t appreciate her implying that I no longer believe in the no-ad concept without first checking with me. The fact is I believe as strongly today as ever that it can be achieved with a national magazine that is truly different, sparkles with creativity and delivers what readers can’t easily find elsewhere. The lack of advertising was the most noticeable difference our 16 million subscribers mentioned and appreciated, and now–with the acceptance of advertising–that uniqueness is gone.The problem with Ellen’s conclusion is she’s comparing apples to tomatoes. Here’s why: With today’s printing, paper and postage costs, you need about 1 million paid subscribers to make a go of it with a no-ad magazine.Well, when you have a NATIONAL magazine directed at the U.S. population of nearly 300 million people, garnering 1 million subscribers is a reachable goal. I feel that’s still currently attainable with the right kind of magazine. As I’ve often said, if you can’t lure 1 million subscribers from a 300-million audience, maybe your new magazine isn’t really that good after all.But when you have a REGIONAL magazine, such as Our Iowa, directed at a much smaller audience (Iowa’s population is 2.8 million), any logical person would understand that attracting 1 million subscribers is out of reach. In that kind of limited market, you need the ancillary support of advertising. The comparison and facts are that simple.I’ve never been “against advertising”. My first success was with a magazine supported solely by ads, with no paid subscribers. But I also learned–with the right concept–you can make it without ads as well.We successfully launched 14 national magazines without advertising, eventually topping 16 million paid subscribers. But not one of those magazines would have made it without advertising if it had been limited to a single state or regional audience.This being the case, it bugs me big time that Ellen keeps implying I’ve “caved in” and that I no longer believe a NATIONAL magazine can make it without advertising…and bases her conclusion on what she now sees I’m doing with a REGIONAL magazine.For her to keep using me as a defense of RDA’s move to accepting advertising by asserting “even Roy Reiman knows that times have changed”, as she was quoted recently, is very disturbing, especially in view of her added comment: “It is normal to have disgruntled former employees acting as ‘sources’, but there’s always another side of the story.”I find that comment particularly interesting, when it appears she is now acting as the “source” of my thinking, without first checking my side of the story.Most bothersome of all, though, is her assertion that a “no advertising model no longer works in this day and age”. That comment minimizes and discredits the efforts of the incredibly creative crew at our company that successfully launched 14 national no-ad magazines over the years…and likely, if we surrounded up the best of them, would love the challenge of making it happen again today.
–Roy Reiman, FounderReiman Publications

Ellen Morgenstern and Bob Sacks exchanges
Bob Sacks on his bosacks.com electronic newsletter wrote:

Friends, A few weeks ago I accidentally reposted in this newsletter an article by Samir Husni about the goings on at Reiman Publishing, now owned by the RDA which is in turn actually owned by Ripplewood Holdings. It was a mistake on my part, because I had previously posted exactly the same article a month or so previously. To the best of my knowledge, it is the first time in fifteen years that I have reposted an identical article.Reader’s Digest Association has asked for an editorial correction and this is it. Mea Culpa.For the further enlightenment of our readership I will post the letter from RDA, which is printed here at their request. I am also posting Samir’s note to us on the same subject.As always, you can make up your own mind on the observations from RDA. Do you agree or disagree with the points taken?BoSacks

Ellen Morgenstern’s letter to Bob Sacks regarding my blog:

Dear Bob,I respect that you are servicing the publishing industry with your independent voice and insider’s perspective. You keep your fingers on the pulse of what’s current for publishers.Therefore, I am perplexed why you would choose to recycle Samir Husni’s column from August, where unidentified sources complain about changes taking place at the former Reiman publications under the Reader’s Digest Association. You know this is old news, and you already posted readers’ responses.After changes, it is normal to have disgruntled former employees acting as “sources,” but there’s always another side to the story.Here are a few points to consider:The writing has been on the wall for some time that a “no advertising” model no longer works in this day and age. Even Roy Reiman’s new magazine venture, “Our Iowa,” accepts advertising.The ads appear to be a non-issue for our readers. We received but a handful of letters expressing concern. (One loyal reader even sent a $5 cash donation in sympathy with the rising costs of printing and publishing!)The sale of Reiman to RDA made sense for both parties because of the natural synergies between the companies. It took some time to materialize, but by integrating the companies, the business is now headed in a much better direction than where it was at the time of the sale.The key titles – many of which had flattened out in circulation — are doing very well. Investments are being made to revitalize and sustain some of the beloved brands that otherwise might have faded. And the affinity-based strategy of supporting the Food / Entertaining and Home / Garden titles with specialized divisions, related assets and integrated marketing, is clearly designed to give the Reiman titles a great chance for a long and successful future!Change isn’t easy, but it is necessary in this rapidly evolving media landscape. We will continue to look for smart ways to bring the best content to our readers. They will ultimately decide if their interests are being served.
Ellen MorgensternDirector, Public RelationsReader’s Digest Association

And, if you are still with me, Bob’s respond to Ellen:

Ellen:I re-posted that in innocence without an agenda. On Samir’s site it was listed as a recent November release and appeared new. While on the road, I checked my database as best as I could, and, although it sounded familiar, I couldn’t find that I had sent it out before.Mea culpa.As you might expect I am an epicenter of an enormous amount of information and industry-wide emails. I have received dozens and dozens of emails on and about RDA, Ripplewood and Reiman. My guess is that it was this information overload that made me think that Samir’s article was new paralleling most the letters I have received.I will gladly write an editorial correction if you would like or empower you to write a response to my readership.Bob Sacks


  1. Remembering how I used to trust Readers Digest decades ago, but very aware how my aged mother, my husband and I totally enjoyed the stories and pictures of the Reiman publications. t saddened me to recognize almost anything goes in the R .Digest. Genuine GOOD, authentic stories in Ranch and Country magazines surpassed most periodicals by FAR.

  2. Ms. Morgenstern claims that only “a handful” of letters were received expressing concern over the changes in the former Reiman publications. They probably didn’t get a lot of letters, because most people realized that our concern would have no bearing on what a money grubbing corporation would do. Instead of letters we used an approach we hoped they might notice…..we cancelled our subscriptions. I personally used to order 4 Reiman magazines and highly recommended them to others and ordered gift subscriptions for several people. Well, guess what….Not Anymore!! Not only are the ads very unwelcome, but the format changes are awful! Mr. Reiman, I hope you are enjoying the millions you got for selling out because your loyal readers are not enjoying what was left after RDA and Ripplewood destroyed the publications you spent years building.

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