When just six weeks ago the U.S. Postal Commission started charging you 41¢ instead of 39¢ to mail a letter or birthday card, you may not have stopped to think how much bigger a postage stamp it was going to take to mail you your weekly copy of WORLD.
We hate to tell you. But it has now been confirmed by postal authorities that beginning this month, WORLD's postage bill will go up by 23 percent-not in increments, but in a single suffocating step.
The implications for WORLD and for hundreds of other smaller magazines and newspapers-and indeed for the wide-open exchange of ideas that such periodicals represent-are profound. A top official at the postal commission told me personally a few weeks ago that rates will almost certainly just keep going up in the future. And he said that the USPS folks are fully aware that many publications will simply go out of business.
That, of course, is not our intention at WORLD. From our launch in 1986, the human odds against our survival in the hurly burly of a wildly changing information age have been high. But we have a firm commitment to journalistic truth-telling that we think the Lord God in heaven honors, and we don't plan to throw in the towel just because of a measly postage stamp.
At the same time, coming up with an additional $400,000 this year-that's $30,000-plus every month-to pay the post office (with no hint from them that this will give us better service), well, I don't need to tell you that is a major challenge. We'd much rather put that money into enhanced editorial coverage. But unless we make some decisive changes to the way we deliver WORLD, the USPS will take that choice off the table.
So our publisher, Nick Eicher, backed by our editorial team and our board of directors, has asked me to use this space to bring you into the discussion. We've been talking about how to keep improving the quality of WORLD in such an economic climate, and we'd like your response to one of our possible solutions.
Key to our thinking is the fact that postage for a double-size magazine, delivered every two weeks, is considerably less than twice what it costs to mail you one of our thinner magazines every week. What if, we have wondered, we could find a way to send you that better, thicker, more comprehensive magazine every two weeks-26 issues a year instead of the 48 we are sending you now, but with the opportunity to provide even more editorial content? What if we took all these developments as an exciting challenge instead of a threat?
Will you join us in that discussion? We've set up a special web address for you to post your comments electronically: www.worldmag.com/survey. Or you can use snail mail, spending 41 cents for the postage and thereby subsidizing the Post Office for one more round! If you want, you can leave word for Nick or me at (828) 232-5415, or just ask our able assistant June McGraw to record your opinion.
However you respond, try to pick one of the five following general categories as a summary of your thoughts:
1. You like the idea of more pages in WORLD and more in-depth coverage delivered every two weeks.
2. You don't think it would make much difference. You'd like WORLD either way.
3. You suspect it may not be as appealing, but you're willing to try it.
4. You don't like it. You prefer a weekly magazine, and would consider not renewing your subscription.
5. Other. Here are some further comments.
If you don't mind adding your age, we'd appreciate it. Remember that we haven't made any decisions yet, and that we're trying to get a picture of WORLD's longer-range future.
Then, go ahead and enjoy this mid-July issue-looking forward to next week's issue as well.