Reading the Reader’s Digest Prize Draw mailer

For the past few years I’ve been getting Prize Draw letters from Reader’s Digest. They are quite incredible things. The whole thing is painstakingly designed to suggest that (a) I’ve won (b) I’m being written to personally. Neither of those things are strictly true.

I’ve been meaning to analyse some of the design, perhaps as a case study for a design class, or perhaps as a resource for when we teach textual analysis with the first years. As I’ve never got around to it, this year I decided to film myself as I open the mailing. This is all a bit rough and ready, but represents a first pass through the text as I consider how it has been put together, how I’m being asked to respond, and what social context the text exists within. I don’t do a great deal of textual analysis, but this is pretty much how I would go through any first reading – I’d then take these ideas and frame them more precisely with the appropriate analytical tools, and begin to build a more nuanced reading. It’s easy enough to list what you see, but the more interesting part of the analysis is thinking about what that might mean, and why it could be important.

During the video I allude to RD being censured in the past about their mailings. Here’s a link:

(This is a draft post for the blog – hence it assumes you’re a media student and want to know how we go about analysing media texts)

By Jon Hickman

Hi, I'm Jon. I teach and research digital culture, social media and new media practice at Birmingham City University. Find out more about me with this lovely CV: Find out about my work at the Birmingham Centre for Media & Cultural Research: