• U.S.

The Press: Indigestion

2 minute read

At the richly stocked smörgasbord table spread each month by U. S. magazine publishers, the first and daintiest forkfuls of reprint rights generally go to the oldest and richest customer—famed, slightly fabulous Reader’s Digest. The stout little Digest totes the biggest plate because it pays the biggest prices, has kept the good will of its hosts by refusing advertising. Sometimes it makes other magazines presents of free, full-length articles which it then digests and “reprints.”

Despite its enormous, secret circulation (lately rumored around 3,000,000) and its equally impressive profits (which FORTUNE reported at $418,000 in 1935), the Digest and its owners, DeWitt and Lila Bell Acheson Wallace, still have nightmares when they think of one thing. What if other magazine publishers stopped allowing Reader’s Digest to reprint their articles at any price?

Last week it became known that Philadelphia’s Curtis Publishing Co. (Sateve-post, Ladies’ Home Journal, Country Gentleman) was refusing any further pickings to the Digest. A spokesman for the Post said relations between the two had been “most friendly” (the Digest is believed to have paid Curtis about $20,000 a year), but their contract would definitely not be renewed. Asked for a reason, he replied: “Figure it out for yourself.” Best figuring: independent-minded Post Editor Wesley Winans Stout sees no reason for selling ammunition to an important newsstand rival.

Other publishers did not follow suit. Said David Smart of Esquire, Ken and Coronet: “We’re cooperating 100%.” Similar reassurance came from the Crowell group (Collier’s, American Magazine, Woman’s Home Companion, Country Home), TIME Inc., Forum and Scribner’s.

Meantime, along Roaring Brook Road in rural Chappaqua, N. Y., workmen are completing a big, red brick building that is already beginning to look a good deal like a village high school. Here all Digest clippers & snippers will soon move from their Pleasantville offices.

Here Mr. Wallace and his highly paid editor-condensers will continue to work out their plans to meet any emergency that may arise to curtail the Digest’s diet—plans which include printing original articles along with advice to consumers on advertised products. Already the Digest is growing much of its roughage in its own back yard.

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