One of the stories that wasn’t well covered in the recent Cablevision/ Fox feud is the effect it had on a sports fan’s ability to shout at the television while watching games. Non-sports fans may think this ritual is borderline idiotic, but real fans understand not only is it immensely satisfying to give managerial advice to the likes of Joe Girardi or Rex Ryan, but it’s also a great, low-risk way to blow-off some steam. Being wrong doesn’t matter: there are no back-page headlines that you made the wrong call on fourth down or questions about why you stuck with the starter rather than going to the bullpen.
Expressing your opinions digitally on the other-hand is entirely different game. What you say and do lives on long after the final out, demands a more thoughtful point of view and far more conviction than the average at-home outburst. Looking back on a Minsider column I wrote in the summer of 2009 on the growing problem of information overload), thankfully I wasn’t just shouting at the tv. I was convinced then–and even more so today–that with a combination of limited time and unlimited digital content, consumers need help sorting out what really matters.
When I took my current role at Reader’s Digest this past spring, I spent a lot of time speaking with consumers, clients and peers about the brand’s roots and greatest strengths. All had memorable stories about their experiences with the brand–from where they first saw it to their favorite columns–but the most important moment for me came while reading the biography of Reader’s Digest founder DeWitt Wallace. (Special thanks to editor-in-chief Peggy Northrop for both recommending it and trusting me enough to lend me her copy.)
Not only did it reaffirm everything I’d been feeling about the crush of digital media, but it also made it clear that Wallace understood–long before anyone else–the value of simplifying and curating the very best stories from across the country and condensing them each month into a consumer-friendly digest. His guiding vision was captured in this two-sentence quote from 1920: “We live in fast-paced times. People are anxious to get to the heart of the matter and we intend to search it out for them”.
Jump forward to the media landscape of 2010 with 8,500 magazines and newspapers, 2,300 tv channels, over 180 Mobile carriers offering Wi-Fi, plus more than 200 million websites, and Wallace’s vision has even greater relevance. Even David Carr of The New York Times observed in a recent column: “We have reached a moment in time when our ability to produce media has outstripped our ability to consume it.”
For the Reader’s Digest brand, it also means the future is clear: getting back to its roots as the original content curator and to its original mission of bringing people all across the country trusted, time-saving insights. The twist is that this time we’ll lead with a daily digital digest called the Reader’s Digest Version coupled with an iPad edition and more than a dozen mobile apps to guarantee that we deliver on another critical consumer expectation, offering content how, when and where they want.
With just about 12 weeks to go until everything launches it doesn’t leave me nearly as much time as I’d like to watch my favorite teams play–especially since Cablevision and Fox seem to have resolved their differences, for now.
Dan Lagani is president of Reader’s Digest Media where he oversees the Reader’s Digest branded businesses in the U.S.