And so, what to make of this all? Reader Magazine is just a coupon magazine, mailed to 150,000 homes in Southern California—and promoted, with mixed success (13 Twitter followers, but 8,516 likes on Facebook) on the Internet. It’s design and layout are crummy and crowded; the product of someone that has gone crazy—color! fonts!—with newly affordable and accessible home publishing programs. It’s quite likely more people toss Reader out than actually read it. And when they do, they’re reading stories that are sometimes years old—what is that really worth?

Yet before waving away Reader’s editorial misdeeds, with a ‘Why bother?,’ it’s important not to forget the principle of it nor the fact, that while Reader rips off other print media—an industry we’ve heard isn’t doing so well these days—Reader’s operations hum along on the backs of others with ad revenues that appear to be growing and are celebrated on the Reader’s Facebook page:

From humble origins, The Reader Magazine has grown to become today one of the largest circulation publications in Southern California, reaching a readership that earns $8 billion.

The Reader is also getting fatter. Its latest Redlands edition was 40 pages, up from the its usual 32.

If you'd like to get email from CJR writers and editors, add your email address to our newsletter roll and we'll be in touch.

Erika Fry is a former assistant editor at CJR.