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Making Sense of the Consolidation of the Publishing Industry

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Making Sense of the Consolidation of the Publishing Industry

Rodale Press, who published such well-known magazines as Men’s Health, Prevention and Runner’s World, had their assets purchased by Penguin Random House, a division of Bertelsmann. The deal is believed to be worth $225 million.  

Headquartered in the thriving metropolis of Emmaus, PA, Rodale also published a number of bestselling books, including An Inconvenient Truth (by Al Gore), Eat This, Not That(by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding), The Honest Life (by Jessica Alba) and Onward(by Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks).

Rodale had a good run. They were founded in 1930 and had an office in New York City. They launched the organic movement in the 40’s. Their mission, they said, was to “inspire health, healing, happiness and love in the world.” In 1947, JI Rodale started a farm to study organic agriculture. Located in Eastern Pennsylvania, the 333-acre farm revolutionized the food system, proving that healthy soil = healthy food = healthy people.

Young Blood

Maria Rodale was the third generation leader of the company. She was no doubt in a power struggle with Zinczenko, who was appointed Editor-in-Chief of Men’s Health when he was 30 years old. He later left and founded Galvanized Media. After he left, Rodale told the press, “It’s not Dave’s Health. It’s Men’s Health.

During his tenure at Rodale – and beyond – Zinczenko managed to brand himself very well. In addition to Eat This, Not That, he has 13 other New York Times bestsellers. With over 10 million books in print, additional titles include The 8-Hour Diet and Men, Love & Sex.He even has his own publishing imprint at Random House called Zinc Ink.

Outside of being an author, he was recognized in both 2002 and 2007 by People magazine as one of the 50 most eligible bachelors. In 2013, he was named the Nutrition and Wellness Editor at NBC News. He has appeared on Good Morning AmericaWorld News Tonightand Nightline. Before that, he appeared for 10 years on The Today Show, where he primarily featured Eat This, Not That. So, during this transition, it should come as no surprise that Zinczenko is being brought back as the interim director of Men’s Health.

Related: Are Smartphones Creating the Demise of the Literary World?

The Truth: Hearst

Bicycling and Runner’s World will comprise the new “Hearst Enthusiast Group,” which will remain in the Lehigh Valley (part of Pennsylvania near Allentown). Hearst bought Rodale’s Global Content Business in October of 2017.

Hearst has a stellar lineup of magazines, including Car and Driver, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Esquire, Food Network Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar and Town and Country. They are very well diversified with 300 media brands across the globe and they are the biggest monthly magazine publisher in the world. Two-thirds of their profits, believe it or not, come from print, claims David Carey, CEO of Hearst Magazines. He thinks there’s still plenty of money to be made in the print business. On a Recode media with Peter Kafka podcast, he questions the durability of digital media companies. Because of the low barriers to entry, Carey suggests, pure play (digital only) companies are headed for a crash.

The demise of Rodale is sad. I still have several of their books on my shelf. Since the 1990’s, The Doctor’s Book of Home Remedies: Thousands of Tips and Techniques Anyone Can Use to Heal Everyday Health Problems, has been my trusty companion. Russell Wild, who I met through my wife’s French class, is one of the editors. I remember one time I had a plantar wart and one of the suggestions was to will it away, which, fortunately, I did.  

Publishing continues to evolve. And media businesses will bifurcate even more. 

The parent company of Hearst – and now Rodale – is Bertelsmann, a media conglomerate that operates in 50 countries. It includes the broadcaster RTL Group (Europe’s leading entertainment network), Penguin Random House (which comprises nearly 250 editorially independent imprints, including Doubleday and Alfred A. Knopt), Gruner + Jahr (which has approximately 500 media activities, magazines and digital offerings including National Geographic), the Music Company BMG, Arvato (“One Stop Everything”) and three other Bertelsmann entities. 

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