Shifting gears

A few operational changes-but nothing to affect our mission

Issue: "Schundler's bliss," July 7, 2001

With this issue, WORLD magazine turns a notable page in its brief 15-year history. On July 1, WORLD set aside its role as a nonprofit organization to become a tax-paying, for-profit corporation. Here's a brief explanation of why-and the implications for you as a loyal reader. WORLD was launched in 1986 with the goal of providing a credible weekly summary of important news developments around the world-but always from a distinctly biblical perspective. We were sufficiently acquainted with the realities of magazine publishing to know we faced a tough challenge. But we were also sufficiently optimistic (some would say naïve!) to stay at it when common sense said it was time to quit. I dreamed during those early years that if things went well, we might develop a circulation of 50,000-75,000 subscribers, and that such a family of readers would help us become self-supporting. I also supposed it would take some generous gifts to keep us alive. Several times, publicly and privately, I appealed for a gift of a million dollars to solidify WORLD's base. The million-dollar gift never came. God moved thousands of readers, however, to provide smaller gifts. For an important stretch in the mid-1990s, a loyal cadre of 25 friends each gave $5,000 a year to help balance our budget. Altogether, during WORLD's first 15 years, some $2.6 million in gifts provided the fledgling magazine's lifeblood. Along the way, more and more readers joined the WORLD family. Increased circulation meant the magazine was more attractive to advertisers. That combination meant the magazine was less reliant on charitable gifts. By 1997, we found ourselves surpassing what had been my most optimistic circulation projections, approaching 100,000 subscribers. That year, for the first time, our income exceeded our expenses. All those developments prompted us, both in management and at the board level, to think seriously about the future. Might God have more significant plans for WORLD? As editor Marvin Olasky noted in his Jan. 13 column, WORLD now finds itself unexpectedly in the No. 4 spot among general newsweeklies in the United States. How hard would it be to double to 250,000 subscribers? And then to double again to half a million? We're still not sure. But WORLD's significant growth over the last half dozen years encourages us to think there's a big place in American society for a magazine like this. So we want to keep moving ahead. We've developed a plan requiring significant capital-and our board has determined it will be easier to secure such capitalization as a for-profit company than as a nonprofit. WORLD capitalization will come in the future not from charitable donors, but from a small number of interested investors. The company's voting stock, however, will be held exclusively by God's World Publications Inc., the 59-year-old nonprofit company whose primary mission is to promote biblical worldview thinking. Such an arrangement will protect WORLD's editorial vision and keep the magazine from chasing commercial success at the expense of philosophical integrity. But our goal will also be to make WORLD commercially successful. The best way to do that, we believe, is to offer you (and our advertisers) an editorial product so unique and so compelling that you can't afford to be without it. We've made strides in that direction; but we also know we don't meet that standard with every single page of every issue. So a significant part of the capital we raise in the next few months will be devoted to strengthening the editorial product, to adding new topics to our news coverage, and to researching everything we do even more thoroughly. We expect that our average issue size of 49 pages this last year will grow to 53 pages this coming year. That will symbolize, we hope, an always-improving product. Simultaneously, we'll keep reaching out to new audiences. WORLD competes for reader and advertiser interest with a fascinating group of magazines, indicated on the accompanying chart. Among that notable group, WORLD is the only magazine to have enjoyed regular growth in recent years. Our goal is to sustain and even accelerate that growth in the years just ahead. Almost none of these changes will be noticeable in the magazine you get from week to week. One change, however, deserves your attention. WORLD's subscription services, starting next week, will be handled for us on a contract basis by a company based in Florida. All mail and phone calls having to do with subscriptions and address changes will be routed from now on through them. Mail and phone calls about editorial matters and the magazine's content will continue to come directly to us at our offices here in Asheville, N.C. You will always find a directory of the appropriate addresses and phone numbers as part of the magazine's masthead in the early pages of each issue. The book of Proverbs reminds us, of course, that it is for man to propose-but always for God to dispose. So I wrap this whole column in a package clearly labeled: "If the Lord wills ..." His will for WORLD magazine until now has been generous and fruitful. I ask readers to pray that we will be profitable servants, faithful to His call.

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