Pros: Great humor columns, positive outlook in articles, some interesting subjects
Cons: In trying to be diverse, RD lacks depth and an annual subscription is pretty expensive.
Growing up, every time I visited my grandmothers house I took the opportunity to steal Readers Digest and eagerly devour it. (It was always in the bathroom, for some reason.) I was pretty young and I dont think I read too many of the articles but I thought the humor sections were hilarious. Laughter, the Best Medicine was my favorite so I always saved it for last. This year I have found myself in possession of a subscription to Readers Digest, thanks to my mother-in-law who apparently received an offer for six free gift subscriptions. While I still enjoy the comedy sections when I get the time to read them, I have been disappointed with the depth and overall content of Readers Digest and will not be renewing my subscription.
Readers Digest is kind of a hodge podge of content but a few things are always consistent. The magazine is small in size, about half the size of a normal magazine. Every issue is a couple hundred pages and features a piece of artwork on the back cover. Several columns can be found in every issue. One of these is You Said It, the readers comment column. Another is Word Power which offers a quiz challenging the readers vocabulary. There is a Money Talks column as well as an advice section. A good portion of the magazine is taken up with several humor pages on various topics, including Laughter, the Best Medicine, Humor in Uniform, and Life in these United States.
Article topics vary greatly by issue. They are generally grouped into topics such as health, money, food, travel, home, and technology but not every topic appears in each issue. The featured articles are mostly listed on the front cover. Some examples of articles in recent issues are The Hidden Power of Taste and Smell, Dr. Phil: the Childhood Traumas that Made Him so Strong, and Spend Smart, 85 Great Deals.
What I Like
I very much enjoy the small, portable size of readers digest. It is very convenient to take on trips or to read on the exercise bike at the gym. One thing I consistently notice in this magazine is the very small number of pages devoted to advertisements as compared to some of the others I subscribe to. There are also fewer cards popping out at you demanding you to renew for the LOWEST PRICE EVER! Readers Digest takes a very restrained approach to advertising and I appreciate this very much.
Some of the issues are truly very interesting. I really liked the special issue (May 2005) with the topic Americas 100 Best woven throughout. The articles reflected this theme by focusing on Americans best books, foods, and places to visit complete with some really fabulous photographs. I also liked But Wait! Theres Even More! from April 2005 which gave rating to many of the popular gadgets sold on television. Come on, weve all seen the Magic Bullet countertop blender! Readers Digest has a focus on positive stories and good things that people do for each other, which is refreshing.
One thing that Readers Digest has consistently done well are its high quality humor pages. Now that I am older I really appreciate the true comedy stories in Life in this United States and Humor in Uniform. Even if I dont read all the articles in an issue I still flip through to make sure I catch all the jokes at the end of them.
What I Dont Like
There isnt really anything I dislike about Readers Digest, it is more that there are things I am ambivalent about. This magazine usually ends up at the end of my queue of magazines to read each month and some issues go unread because there are many articles that simply dont interest me. I think the magazine tries to target a very wide audience, with is good but also means that not all subscribers will be interested in all or even most of the articles. In a single issue (June 2005) Readers Digest attempted to tackle an article about the personal life of Tom Cruise, misuse of tax dollars, osteoporosis, and a the war in Iraq.
As a result of trying to tackle such a wide range of issues, I think the quality of individual articles tends to suffer. Even the really interesting articles leave me wanting more and feeling like they must have been truncated in some form. Except for the Bonus Read book section, most of the articles are only a few small pages long and dont really cover their subject in any depth. The annual subscription rate is also usually pretty high as the lowest price I could find in the magazine was $27.98 for a year.
I dont mind flipping through an issue of Readers Digest and will probably continue to pick one up at the doctors office or gym. I still love the humor and find some of the articles very interesting. However, there is just not enough in the magazine to interest me to justify continuing to subscribe considering it would cost almost $30. If you have very diverse interests you might really like this magazine, but I would prefer a little more focus and depth on the individual issues covered.