In a radical shift of its business model, Rodale announced today that the print edition of Prevention, a healthy lifestyle, fitness and wellness magazine, will go ad-free starting July 1, 2016. Coinciding with this change, the magazine will be relaunched with a “bold new editorial vision.” Despite the editorial shift, the magazine will still include health, nutrition, fitness, wellness and healthy lifestyle advice and information.
“Our readers are more involved in their health planning and management than ever before. With this shift in our editorial direction, we are ushering in a new era in health journalism by delivering a magazine that will educate, inform and enable readers to be more in control of their health and wellness. Unfiltered in its reporting, it will motivate people to better advocate for their health,” said Rodale Inc.’s newly-appointed editorial director Mike Lafavore.
In the announcement, Rodale Inc. Chairman and CEO Maria Rodale said, “We are universally connected by our pursuit of a most precious gift: good health. Yet the U.S. healthcare system consistently underperforms when compared to other nations and people continue to search for solutions to finding true health. More than ever, there is a need for a credible source of information that covers all aspects of what it means to be happy and healthy and provides the objective tools to navigate what has become an increasingly complex healthcare landscape.”
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According to the announcement, Prevention will become a new premium product and will be “a magazine that today’s health-minded consumer wants, needs and will pay for; an authoritative and trusted source that breaks through the clutter and empowers people with the information they need to make decisions when it comes to personal or family health.”
Instead of advertising revenue, Prevention will rely on subscription income. According to Prevention’s 2015 media kit, the magazine has a subscriber base of 1.5 million. However, it is not clear if 1.5 million represents paid circulation or a mix of paid and free subscriptions. We’ve contacted Prevention to ask. Prevention did not respond to our inquiry.
In its media kit, Prevention also reported average print and digital sales of 231,862. According to Publisher’s Daily, single copies of the tablet-sized print magazine will sell for $4.99 each, a $1.00 increase over its current newsstand price. A one-year subscription currently sells for $24.00 a year or $36.00 for two years.
Prevention.com, which reported 7.5 million unique visitors in December, will continue to use an ad-supported model.
We’ve seen publishers experiment with different business models to find their sweet spot – paywalls, metered paywalls, micropayments, ad-supported models and hybrids like Rezonence’s FreeWall. It looks like Rodale is trying to find what will work best for its readers while producing a high quality, profitable magazine.
Looking solely at print figures, it looks like readership has taken a significant plunge since 2003 when Advertising Age reported paid circulation of 3,277,746 for Prevention. If 1.5 million represents paid circulation, readership has dropped by more than 50% in 13 years. That’s a huge hit, and might be the reason for such a dramatic change in strategy.
If Rodale is primarily reliant on print subscriptions for revenue, its editorial direction must be designed to retain current subscribers but also to add new ones. We’d love to know what Rodale’s new subscription goals will be, how they will woo past subscribers, and if Rodale will apply the ad-free print model to any of its other titles, including Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Running, Bicycling, and Organic Life, if this experiment proves successful.
This is a bold move, and it comes a little more than a month after Rodale cut 10 staff positions, including four executive positions. It looks like the company is shaking things up. Since the company is privately owned, it doesn’t release financials, so it is hard to surmise what’s really going on.