Fifteen years isn't a lot of time. As I get older I am amazed at how time does, indeed, seem to fly. I first met Joel Belz early in 1986 when he walked into my office and began to explain what he had in mind for a weekly newsmagazine that would report and analyze current events from a biblical perspective. I was in the throes of trying to make a daily newspaper work economically at the time and was well aware of the pitfalls of publishing. I wished Joel well, ushered him out of the office, and thought to myself that this was a noble idea that would never work.
That shows what I know. Fifteen years later, with 125,000 subscribers, Joel Belz's idea is prospering. But, my initial analysis really was not as bad as it seems. WORLD should not have worked. One consultant who analyzed WORLD in the early days called it "an impossible publishing concept."
Why did this "impossible concept" work? Joel was certainly diligent. But I think it is clear that no matter how dedicated Joel and his associates were, and no matter how compelling and arresting their writing may have been, WORLD would not have survived and prospered unless a sovereign God had wanted it to.
So, what now? Marvin Olasky gave a pretty clear picture of what we have in mind in the Jan. 13 issue of WORLD. We are No. 4 in the weekly newsmagazine field. We are a long way behind Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News, but we are gaining on them as our circulation grows and theirs stagnates and slips. We have a story to tell that others do not, or will not. We understand that this is not a world of compromise and relativity, but a world in which there is right and wrong. And, we understand that the difference between the two is not personal preference and "feeling," but God's immutable truth.
With the advent of the new Bush administration WORLD finds itself with unique new opportunities. Marvin is the intellectual architect of President George W. Bush's "compassionate conservative" agenda. He literally wrote the book on the subject: Compassionate Conservatism, published by Free Press in 2000, with an introduction by Mr. Bush.
We have recently added Tim Graham, formerly of the Media Research Center in Washington, to our staff as WORLD's first White House correspondent. His presence at the center of political life in our country combined with the work of our other fine editors and reporters and Marvin Olasky's "access" to the inner workings of policy developments puts WORLD in a unique position. We believe that we will be "breaking" stories with increasing frequency and that, more and more, you will see and hear "As reported by WORLD magazine" when newsworthy events occur.
It seems that at least once a week I hear a report about the difficulties that magazines are having in maintaining circulation with the virtual disappearance of the always-questionable "sweepstakes" marketing programs. Now it also appears that newsstand sales are also suffering. In the face of this bad news for publishing in general, WORLD continues to grow. We do not depend upon single copy newsstand sales. Over 98 percent of the more than 125,000 copies of WORLD that are distributed each week go to fully paid subscribers. They are not impulse buyers who happen to see a pretty cover. The implications of this fact for the seriousness with which out readers consider the magazine are not easily measurable, but they are certainly significant.
Will WORLD continue to grow and prosper? Well, it's up to us to keep doing as good a job as we can, and it's up to readers to tell their friends about WORLD. But, in the final analysis, it is up to God.