How the publisher of Reader’s Digest recorded 110% growth in 2021

reader's digest
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One of the most iconic publishing brands in history, the Reader’s Digest has seen more than its fair share of media market turbulence. Founded in 1922, it was once the best selling magazine in America and read in 21 languages across more  than 70 countries. But by 2013, the publication had filed for bankruptcy twice.


  • Trusted Media Brands, or TMB, was formed from the remains of the Reader’s Digest Association in 2015. The new name was chosen to recognise the other brands owned by the company.
  • Now, with a portfolio of nine lifestyle titles publishing across print, digital and social  platforms, TMB is seeing triple-digit growth and credits ‘unprecedented digital publishing opportunities’ and a focus on audience data for its turnaround success.
  • Jason Buhrmester, CCO for Reader’s Digest, said:

We have established a trust that runs deep with our audience and we personalize our data, content, and insights with them in mind.

Audience focus
  • The business claims a combined reach in print and digital of 66 million and 44 million unique visitors a month online. Around 70% of traffic comes from search, giving the business ‘immediate insight’ into what consumers want.

Through its recovery TMB has worked to develop its data capabilities. It has:

  • Overhauled its taxonomy to deliver higher-quality insights and better reporting
  • Migrated to a new data management platform (DMP) to gather more data and enable more precise targeting
  • Centralised its ‘data lake’ to create a holistic view of users and unify data availability across brands
  • Strengthened its email marketing efforts to achieve 12+% annual growth reach 1 million engaged email subscribers

TMB now uses a first-party data solution called “trusted intelligence 360” or “ti360.” It connects editorial leadership, marketers, researchers and data operations to facilitate targeted,  custom opportunities for advertising partners.

Ecommerce growth
  • Bonnie Kintzer, CEO of TMB, sees 2021 as a ‘transformative’ year for the business. She said:

We’ve seen tremendous growth across streaming, ecommerce, affiliate, and programmatic.

  • Ecommerce has become a strong revenue driver for many publishers, accelerating during the pandemic.Described by other publishers as a ‘high margin’ and ‘predictable’ revenue stream, TMB plans to invest in ecommerce product development, affiliate marketing, editorial, and consumer marketing.
Commerce content

Increases in online shopping volumes plus the growing complexities around online advertising measurability and tracking have thrown the spotlight on commerce content. With marketers shifting their spending, publishers are seeing ‘unprecedented revenue growth’ around online retail.

  • Independent reviews linking to third-party retailers deliver affiliate revenue, while similar content can also link directly to products sold directly by publishers.
  • TMB already offers a range of products under its Taste of Home brand including cookware, bakeware, cookbooks, and a subscription box. Another TMB title, Family Handyman, delivers DIY University classes and building plans.
  • Buhrmester explains that TMB is also preparing for the ‘cookieless future’ with a content driven approach to ecommerce. He said:

Because our content is so highly intent-driven and we have a lot of first-party data from all the products we sell directly to consumers, we will be taking a somewhat more proprietary approach than many of our competitors.

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