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Reader's Digest magazine to cease Canadian operations in spring

The latest edition of a Canadian Reader's Digest is seen Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023 in Montreal.The company announced they will cease Canadian operations next spring.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz The latest edition of a Canadian Reader's Digest is seen Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023 in Montreal.The company announced they will cease Canadian operations next spring.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
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The media crisis has taken its toll on Reader's Digest Canada magazine, which will cease operations in the spring. The news was announced on Tuesday to employees of both the French and English editions.

The news was first leaked to the Globe and Mail, which attended part of the meeting. A source, who was not authorized to speak to the media, confirmed to The Canadian Press that the announcement also affects the French-language publication and its employees.

The magazine's owner spoke of declining advertising revenues, rising production costs and changing reading habits at a meeting with employees.

In Montreal, 10 employees received layoff notices in November, effective Jan. 1, according to notices sent to the Employment and Social Solidarity Ministry.

For many, Reader's Digest evokes memories of a stack of magazines in the bathrooms of Canadian homes, or a pleasant read in the waiting room. The magazine was read for its portraits, practical articles and testimonials. Within the industry, the publication was renowned for its rigorous fact-checking process.

With the death of the French edition of Reader's Digest, the Quebec media landscape loses a 'humanist' voice, said one of its freelancers André Lavoie.

Before working with the magazine in 2016, André Lavoie admitted that he viewed it with nostalgia, as belonging to another era. After reconnecting with the magazine, he found that its mission "has nothing anachronistic about it."

He recounted the list of people he has met in the course of the 60 or so portraits he has written, Quebecers who have made their mark in different spheres of society.

"It was about subjects that interest me," he says. "Committed people, people who want to make the world a better place."

The closure of a magazine is always bad news for the freelance journalists who contribute to it, said Léa Villalba, who is president of the board of directors of the Quebec Association of Independent Journalists (AJIQ). "Magazines and specialized publications are our main source of income."

Reader's Digest had a reputation for good rates, she added. Many freelance journalists - her association numbers around a hundred - have had to contend with stagnating rates offered by their clients for many years.

Trusted Media Brand, the U.S.-based publisher of the Canadian editions, was not immediately available for comment.

By 2021, operating revenues for the Canadian periodical publishing industry had shrunk by half compared to 2013, according to Statistics Canada data published in January. There's no sign that the trend has reversed since then, as web giants compete for advertising revenues.

Several iconic Quebec and Canadian print brands are finding themselves under pressure. For example, the Quebec edition of 'Chatelaine' magazine announced in March that it was cutting back from six to four editions a year.

Like many in the industry, Lavoie cites competition from web giants for advertising revenue. Beyond this economic reality, he is concerned about the effect of these technologies on reading habits.

"It's a crisis caused by our lack of interest in reading," he said. "If people read more and got away from screens, they'd open up to lots of other things. That would allow a lot of publications to live. Maybe people would spend more time reading them than tapping away on their phones."

- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Dec. 6, 2023.

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