Reader’s Digest 2.0? Yes
Reader’s Digest, that endearingly lower-middlebrow American institution, has been largely overlooked in the world of print-to-digital transformation. Who can blame us? What could the folks who brought us such gems as fast-reading edits of James Michener and articles like “I am Joe’s Islets of Langerhans” have to contribute to the world of digital publishing?
Fast answer: More than you’d suspect.
Check out the following:
- An Election 08: “Grade the Candidates” tool. Rate each candidate on a 4.0 scale. (Results so far seem to suggest, unsurprisingly, that rd.com users lean right.) It’s got usability problems, but it’s a worthy entry in the ’08 2.0 derby. Even its exclusion of Internet diva Ron Paul carries a certain RD charm. Whether the producers simply don’t get out enough to know who Ron Paul is, or figure he’s not important enough to include, is inconsequential. You’ve got to admire its innocent devotion to mainstream civics.
- The home page’s Daily Top5, a module of that eerily preserves the sweet, dorky sensibility of the publication using interactive and traditional media: carefully selected YouTube videos [today’s is a comedy routine making fun of daily mom-isms], “addictive games,” a [network] TV show of the night, etc.
- A front-page mix that includes heart-warming inspirational stories, the expected pre-Martha how-do content, user-submitted photos and the display of such utterly safe celebrities as Tom Hanks.
- It even markets its podcasts as “RD Out Loud”–a sort of digital-audio version of the magazine’s beloved “large print edition.”
Sure, it’s easy for us new media snobs to make fun of Reader’s Digest. But if there is an example of a publication that has prudently adopted 2.0 technologies to extend its brand online–while preserving the publication’ s sensibilities precisely–I’d like to hear about it.