The name ‘Rydge’s’ evokes Norman B. Rydge (1900–80), his business-oriented publications and a sprawl of companies in the leisure trades, including early involvement in the hotel industry. Ever alert to innovation, Rydge published an article in 1934 on the impact of television on business. In 1936, he took charge of Greater Union cinemas, which—in alliance with J. Arthur Rank from 1945—established a nationwide chain of drive-ins but stymied local feature production at Cinesound.
In accord with his maxim that a ‘business without profit is business without honour’, Rydge boosted companies in which he was a major shareholder, such as Cash Orders (Aust.) Ltd. His lifelong devotion to tax evasion began with his first manual, Federal Income Tax Law (1921).
From 1928, he edited Rydge’s Business Journal, two years before Henry Luce’s Fortune but with less of the American’s enthusiasm for civilising executives. Rydge’s biggest obstacle had been to convince his fellows that they needed to read. It began at 64 pages in January, reaching 112 pages by September—with almost a third taken by advertising. The hundredth issue (1936) wondered how ‘that comparatively insignificant publication ever bore the name Rydge’s’. Rydge chased 20,000 direct subscriptions, but from July 1928 had to share the cover price of a shilling with newsagents and booksellers, though he later reverted to subscription only. By the 500th edition in 1970, subscriptions were only just above the initial target.
Rydge understood that marketing went beyond advertising to include office management, the tricks of a commercial traveller, window-dressing, packaging and the publicity that he perfected with fictional testimonials. A name change in 1935 to Rydge’s: The Business Management Monthly emphasised this integration of skills, though he altered the look more than the content. After that second subtitle disappeared, the wording on the covers juggled ‘Business’, ‘Entertainment’, ‘Finance’ and ‘Industry’.
Rydge’s Memory Course in 1980 continued the 1920s appeal of the Pelmanism memory system, which had been part of The Rydge Course: How to Achieve Success (1955). The company gave away 5000 copies of Self-Made or Never Made to subscribers in 1933. By 1947, Rydge’s was selling How to Build Personality, claiming it was more effective than Dale Carnegie’s system.
The eponymous brand appeared on Rydge’s Construction, Civil Engineering and Mining Review (1967), Rydge’s Management and Marketing Service (1972), and Rydge’s EDP Manual (1977). The flagship publication, depleted of its gloss, and beaten by both professional journals and a more active business press, merged with John Fairfax & Sons’ Business Review Weekly on 25 September 1987.
REF: T. O’Brien, The Greater Union Story (1985).