IN OUR SEPT. 20 ISSUE, I DEVOTED THIS COLUMN TO a few details about efforts we were making to expedite the delivery of your weekly issues of WORLD via the U.S. Postal Service. "Few frustrations in life," I told you then, "are as maddening as to work feverishly to produce timely coverage of the week's news, only to have our magazine languish for days in the dark corners of a postal warehouse or substation."
Buried in the very last paragraph of that column was a request that some of you help us out by reporting to us the delivery specifics of your own magazine. To do that, we set up a dedicated website-called www.worldmagsurvey.com-and asked you to check in there to let us begin to pinpoint some of our problem areas. Although we hoped a few of you might be motivated to help us, we'd never tried anything just like this, and had no idea what might happen.
So now, a dozen issues later, let me tell you what happened.
For starters, by last week, we had received more than 11,500 replies to our request. Some of those, to be sure, were multiple replies from a single subscriber-folks who took pains several weeks in a row to tell us about delivery details. That outpouring of responses came from all 50 states. A full quarter of the replies came from California, Oregon, and Washington-reflecting, no doubt, the distance between our printer in Cincinnati, Ohio, and those far western states.
The detailed data we received from these readers proved a gold mine for us and for a postal consultant whose services we engaged. The information allowed us immediately to burrow in on some obvious issues that proved so easy to confront that service across the country improved immediately. For three consecutive weeks, the average delivery date has been advanced by three full days. We're holding our breath; it seems almost too good to be true.
"Wow!" said H.L. Gutzwiller of Harmony, Pa. "I wasn't finished with last week's issue." "Wow!" (once with as many as 18 exclamation points) was the very first word used by no fewer than 26 different WORLD subscribers. "The survey must be working." "It's a miracle." "Yeah!" "Brilliant!" "Amazing!" "Something is working." "It actually came early." "Fastest ever." "Yay!"
There was, to be sure, a report from Jim Romaine that "Everything comes slow to Cleveland, Miss." And Hollins Williams from Durham, N.C., spoiled the fun a bit by noting that he "got two issues on the same day." All I can hope is that the second one was there to demonstrate that things are getting better.
A "Wow!" from Warren and Tami Johnson in Midland, Mich., just preceded this encouraging note: "It arrived before our Newsweek, and that has never happened before." And, of course, as you would expect from our audience, there was even one "Hallelujah!"
Credit for monitoring the details of this remarkable turnaround belongs to WORLD's editorial coordinator, Joanna Veith, who works in our St. Louis office with editor Nick Eicher and managing editor Tim Lamer. Since my September column, Joanna has traveled to Chicago to confer with our postal consultant, to Asheville, N.C., to spend time with folks in our main office, and to Cincinnati, Ohio, to observe first-hand how the finished magazines every Friday make their way through the post office and onto various trucks and trains headed in all directions.
Joanna took her assignment personally. "I understand the frustrations of our subscribers," she says. "I've read WORLD for almost a decade, and like many of our subscribers, I had my share of torn covers and late issues. I wasn't bothered by it because I looked to WORLD for a solid analysis of the news from a Christian worldview, and not necessarily as my source for the latest headline. But now that I work for WORLD, I see the tremendous efforts being put into producing the freshest newsmagazine possible." Like us, Joanna was frustrated to see that freshness turned stale by a poky postal system.
Joanna also told me last week how struck she has been through all this by the loyalty of WORLD's subscribers: "Week after week, subscribers took the time to register the arrival of their magazines. Along with the delivery information, they sent words of encouragement, prayers, and stories of their families' experiences with WORLD. A great benefit of this project had little to do with timely delivery. I had the opportunity to learn about thousands of fellow WORLD readers. I hope we can keep this dialogue open."
Indeed, we intend to do just that. The website (www.worldmagsurvey.com) is still there, ready for you to use. We're not going to let up on this delivery issue until the issue is resolved for everyone. Or, as Scott McClintock of Liverpool, N.Y., said in his e-mail, "Go PO!"