A day before the announcement, Northrop attended a party at The Modern to celebrate More fashion columnist Charla Krupp's new book. Staffers seemed to have no idea at the party that Northrop would reveal her departure the next morning, and were shocked by the news.
According to a source close to the situation, Berner tried to lure Northrop over to RDA for months, but Northrop declined. Finally, Berner offered her what is said to be double her salary at Meredith Corp., and Northrop agreed. "She's a great talent with a loyal following by both readers and staffers," said Eva Dillon, Reader's Digest president and group publisher.
Berner also lured another employee from Meredith's ranks — Vanessa Reed, group associate publisher at More and Fitness — although Reed returned to her old job at Meredith after only three months. Northrop will stay at More until Thanksgiving. Leo left the magazine Friday after six years as editor in chief.
Though the money is lucrative, some are surprised Northrop didn't leave for a higher-level position at RDA. "It's a lateral move," said one observer, who pointed out More is "hot" while Reader's Digest is a hugely challenged franchise. Under Northrop's watch, More was named Advertising Age's 2006 Magazine of the Year and nominated for a National Magazine Award for General Excellence. Circulation for More in the past three years has grown from about 960,000 to 1.2 million as of June, according to figures from Audit Bureau of Circulations. Now Northrop will join a print property in need of revitalizing. Reader's Digest will cut its rate base to 8 million from 10 million in January, while simultaneously unveiling a redesign complete with a new logo, which Leo oversaw.
As for who could replace Northrop at More, Meredith editorial director Mike Lafavore said he already has names in mind. "I always have a list of people, you know, in case someone gets hit by a bus. You're not doing a responsible job [as editorial director] if you're not thinking about what would happen if." — Stephanie D. Smith