Reader’s Digest links with BelairDirect

It won't be long before the customer service specialists at Reader's Digest Association (Canada) are selling auto collision coverage and fire insurance along with magazine subscriptions, books and videos, thanks to a strategic alliance announced earlier this month with BelairDirect....

It won’t be long before the customer service specialists at Reader’s Digest Association (Canada) are selling auto collision coverage and fire insurance along with magazine subscriptions, books and videos, thanks to a strategic alliance announced earlier this month with BelairDirect.

Reader’s Digest’s alliance with the Toronto-based direct-to-consumer property and casualty insurance company is just one element of a broader strategy by the Montreal-based publisher to expand the breadth of its customer offering beyond its traditional array of content-oriented products.

The strategy, in fact, was set into motion almost two years ago, when Reader’s Digest’s U.S. parent company announced that it was preparing to invest up to US$100 million to develop and execute a global Internet strategy. That announcement set off a concerted effort by the Digest’s international offices to strike regional strategic alliances with complementary content producers, as well as product and service suppliers. The idea is to provide Reader’s Digest customers value-added incentives around highly focused communities of interest – from health and well-being to personal finance.

Under the terms of the deal with BelairDirect, for instance, a range of products and services with unique coverage and special pricing are being developed for Reader’s Digest Canada customers. The new products and services will be offered by direct mail and will be available through BelairDirect call centres and both companies’ Web sites. Additional distribution channels may also be developed.

As for the Digest’s pledge to build its Internet infrastucture, the president of its Canadian subsidiary says the commitment is still there, but that expectations have been tempered somewhat by the dot-com downturn of the past six months. Pierre Dion says the Digest believes it must continue to evolve its business into the Internet space, but that it must do so while keeping a close eye on its core business, which is firmly rooted in traditional media.

All the same, he says, the Digest would like to expand ‘online marketing synergies’ with companies with whom it already has content affinity relationships, and that it will work more closely with its existing marketing partners to maximize marketing opportunities on the Internet.

‘The Internet is going to be a part of everything we do,’ Dion says, stressing that despite the turmoil that has befallen the Web industry of late, the Association believes the Internet will continue to be a major force for change within the media and communications industries.

‘We don’t come to work every day wondering how we’re going to survive on the Internet. We come in thinking about how we can serve our customers better, whether it be through new product development, channel management, pricing strategy…whatever,’ says Dion.

‘[But] if, one day, the majority of our customers want to be served through the Internet, we’ll be there for them.’