Earlier this week, Purpose Driven Connection, the partnership between the Readers Digest Association and Saddleback church's Rick Warren, announced a transition to digital online content only, dropping the high-cost print edition.
The final print edition of PDC is due to roll out across the 2009 holiday season. No matter how you look at it, this decision is a hard pill to swallow for Saddleback and RDA.
When RDA and Saddleback first announced their partnership, hopes were (in retrospect) running way ahead of the economic realities of 2009. Since then, RDA has downsized and it is currently wading through bankruptcy proceedings.
The secular press has been rather doubtful from the get-go about a strategic relationship between old media (RDA) and faith-based media (such as Purpose Driven and other mega-church content providers).
Here are comments from a writer for Folio magazine, a trade publication that tracks magazine publishing:
I asked the spokesperson directly if RDA considers the Purpose Driven Connection venture a failure. Of course he said it wasn’t a failure. From an operational point of view, he said that shutting down an otherwise interesting product that doesn’t meet financial criteria “is every bit as important as green-lighting others to go forward.” He also said RDA gleaned “proof of concept” insights into serving a community like Warren’s that’s bound by faith or philosophy.
“We believe that we could take this forward with a community that had a somewhat different characteristic—larger, more open to purchasing memberships, more universal, global, etc.,” the spokesperson said. More open to purchasing memberships. That might be key. This shouldn’t suggest, though, that Saddleback hasn’t had any success from the venture. The church said subscribers to the Daily Hope devotions newsletter have grown to 400,000 since Purpose Driven Connection launched early this year.
If not for monetary reasons, I think the loss for RDA is substantial, despite the positive lessons it says it learned from giving it a shot. It has to be tough, especially for a company that’s now steering itself out of bankruptcy, to watch a product it called one of its most important ventures ever fail after only four issues.
I haven't personally talked with Rick himself about PDC. But he strikes all positive notes in his press release, saying: