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Publisher behind iconic Reader's Digest takes a second trip through bankruptcy

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Reader's Digest stock 2 1020
Reader's Digest stock 2 1020

For the second time in under four years, the publisher behind Reader's Digest has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. RDA Holding Co. says it expects this second trip through Chapter 11 to wrap within six months, after which it hopes to emerge with 80 percent less debt — though still $100 million in the hole. Through its 91-year history, Reader's Digest has become the largest paid circulation magazine in the world, but profits have floundered as more consumers take up reading across smartphones and tablets.

"After considering a wide range of alternatives, we believe this course of action will most effectively enable us to maintain our momentum in transforming the business," said RDA's CEO Robert E. Guth. He insists the publisher is on the right track as it attempts to streamline operations and direct greater resources toward its North America portfolio of magazine brands, "which have shown a new vitality as a result of our transformation efforts, particularly in the digital arena."

RDA doesn't expect the filing to impact day-to-day operations, so Reader's Digest along with RDA's other US properties will still be hitting newsstands monthly; the publisher's international magazines aren't included in the filing. Even so, the fact that a second Chapter 11 filing has proven necessary suggests those transformation efforts may not be going far enough in today's rapidly shifting publishing climate.