What Writer’s Digest Can Teach Us All About Readers

Writer’s Digest, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, is thriving.

“Its secret is a resilience combined with a genuine desire among the team to inspire, educate and connect writers, as cited in the Writer’s Digest’s media kit,” writes Mary Hogarth in What’s New in Publishing. “The title has overcome numerous significant threats since being launched in 1920, including two world wars, a depression, many economic downturns and the digital disruption era.”

In other words, Writer’s Digest has seen it all … and managed to continue on, building a loyal print following of 60,000 readers, a growing virtual community and an innovative team headed by recently installed Editor-in-Chief Amy Jones.

“It’s about being willing to branch out with our expertise,” Jones explains. “Some of us have had career goals focussing on print publications, but we have had to branch out by writing online content and developing partnerships with bloggers. We have also developed online courses or webinars,” she continues, acknowledging these new initiatives sometimes “pushed the team out of their comfort zone as it was beyond their skillsets. “

This is where flexibility comes in, as well as a firm focus on their readership to provide the kind of content they need and love … including the weekly poetry prompts headed by the title’s resident poetry expert Robert Lee Brewer.

“Recently Robert created a poem a day challenge on the website to tie in with National Poetry month, which gets hundreds of responses,” Hogarth writes. “He replies to all of them. It is this commitment that has helped establish such a strong community of readers – many of whom have developed a real connection with the magazine.”

Their social media focus revolves around this engagement, served up with large helpings of inspiration for writers and would-be writers.

“For example, we now run a page From Our Readers at the beginning of every issue. We pose a question across the platform and ask users to reply,” Jones notes. “Answers can also be published in the magazine – a recent question that was about readers’ writing spaces.”

That’s not to say COVID-19 hasn’t had an impact on their business; they’ve combined their September and October issues into one, and are considering taking the publishing scheduled down from eight issues per year to six. Yet Jones points out the possible upside, with issues having higher page counts and higher production quality.

The real secret to their longevity? Jones believes it’s their laser focus on their mission of providing great writing instruction. As long as there are writers seeking to hone their craft, Writer’s Digest stands ready to provide guidance and inspiration.