Insurance Journal Goes National, Keeps Regional Focus

By | October 6, 2003

Insurance Journal, published in California since 1923 and Texas since 1995, is going national. Joining the West and Texas/South Central editions will be three new regional editions—Northeast, Midwest and Southeast—which will be published beginning Jan. 2004 and distributed to more than 40,000 subscribing agents and brokers nationally.

Publisher Mark Wells Jr.—who took over the magazine when his father, Mark Wells Sr., died in 1970—has contemplated national distribution for many years, but the idea became a concrete possibility with the success of Insurance Journal Online, according to Mitch Dunford, Wells Publishing Inc.’s vice president of sales and marketing.

“We really started to lay the foundation with the Web site, which has been national since the day it went live [in 1997],” Dunford said. “The popularity of the site has really taken our brand and established it across the entire United States. Seventy percent of our Web site traffic comes from regions outside our print publication.”

By going national, the magazine hopes to directly compete with the other industry magazines geared toward independent producers.

What sets IJ apart, Dunford said, “is straightforward, regional content.

“It’s not one magazine with a token regional section. The reason that’s so important is insurance is a very regional business,” Dunford added, citing varying state regulations and the natural catastrophe risks each region is exposed to.

A new national editor, Andrea Ortega-Wells, will coordinate the five regional editions. Andrea was a staff writer for the Texas/South Central edition in the late 1990s and most recently worked as public affairs director for the St. Anne’s Maternity Hospital in Los Angeles.

Stephanie Jones will remain editor of the Texas/South Central edition, while senior writer Dave Thomas will edit the new Southeast edition. Staff writers Cynthia Beisiegel and Kevin O’Reilly will take charge at the West and Midwest editions, respectively, while international editor Charles Boyle will manage the Northeast edition.

An advantage IJ offers to advertisers, according to Dunford, is its biweekly publication schedule, compared to its competitors’ monthly schedule.

“This offers our advertisers the opportunity to be in front of their customers more often,” Dunford said. “A company can come in and influence the market more quickly, not only in print but on the Web.”

Lastly, the magazine hopes to “raise the bar on coverage of the insurance industry,” Dunford said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. I’d like to see in the near future stories from Insurance Journal in print, on the Web and broadcasting in some of the other major media.

“It’s such a huge industry,” he added. “By going national, we’re going to have a much better presence to influence the business world and get our story out, so that politicians and the voters and the consumers have the information from the agent’s perspective.”

Insurance Journal Online Gets Two Million Page Views in August
Insurance Journal Online (www.InsuranceJournal.com) continues to attract readers from around the globe and has helped make a long contemplated but only recently realized national edition of the print magazine a possibility.

“It’s really paved the way for us,” Dunford said. “We’ve been able to build our circulation through the Web, and there’s a big portion of agents reading Web news.”

The Web site drew 114,492 unique visitors in August, a 12 percent jump over July’s 102,345, according to IJ Web manager Josh Carlson. Insurance Journal Online pages were viewed more than two million times in August, a 26 percent increase over July’s approximately one and a half million views and a 179 percent growth over a year earlier. Carlson took over management of the site in Oct. 2002.

The number of page views is a more accurate reflection of visitors’ use of a site than hits, Carlson explained, because hits measure how many times the elements of a page—images, tables, etc.—are downloaded separately and thus inflate the figures dramatically.

“Our Web site is very successful because it leverages the power of the Internet,” Dunford said. “In our magazine our strength used to be that we provided the news. Now, by the time we provide the news in print it’s old. The strength of our Web site is we provide breaking insurance news in a way that matters to agents, who can scan it quickly and click through and read a story they’re interested in.”

As of August, 28,937 readers subscribed to the Insurance Journal Daily Headlines e-mail newsletter, which was launched two years ago with only 4,000 subscribers. Aside from the popularity of the e-mail newsletter, free IJ news feeds are also driving readers to the site, according to Carlson.

The news feed service, available at www.insurancejournal.com/newsfeed/, “provides valuable content for Web sites and intranets at no additional cost,” Carlson said via e-mail. “It is very easy to implement.” Sites using the feeds reflect a wide variety of readers, including the New York Council of Insurance Brokers, Fireman’s Fund and the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC).

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