Happy 80th Birthday Insurance Journal

By | October 20, 2003

Not many businesses can make the claim, “we’re 80 years old.” Now Insurance Journal can. It’s hard to believe we started in Los Angeles in 1923 as a life insurance magazine. My family came on the scene in 1936 when my father purchased the magazine for a small amount of money and assumed all of its debts and converted it to a property/casualty magazine for independent agents. This was risky. It was the middle of the depression and no one had any money. Insurance Journal has been the Wells family business ever since.

My father was not a visionary; he just needed a job. He had just been fired as the Southern California manager of the Underwriters Report. Jack Piver, son of the publisher and owner of the Underwriters Report, was the man who fired him. I’m sure not many of our readers remember Jack, but he was quite a ‘character’ in San Francisco. Jack made the mistake of telling someone he was driving to Los Angeles to fire Mark Wells. That someone was a friend of my father, and called long distance to let him know that Jack was on his way. Back then it took two days to drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles. So, my father resigned before Jack arrived. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Life was not easy for Insurance Journal. There were seven property/casualty magazines on the West Coast during those times. But my father prevailed and built a good business. California started to boom after World War II and California’s insurance industry grew with it. During the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, California’s insurance market was the envy of the nation; full of innovation and pioneering industry leaders. The workers’ compensation market was the most profitable in the nation while delivering the best benefits. Many innovations were created in the workers’ comp field and many new carriers were formed. Not at all the way things are today.

In 1970, my father suddenly became ill and passed away. Shortly thereafter, I was ‘catapulted’ to the publisher’s position directing a staff of one. The business was in very bad shape due to my father’s illness and we had a lot of rebuilding to do. We were seventh in a field of seven. We focused on selling advertising and building readers. The business grew, slowly at first and then tremendously in the ’80s. Over the years, we have seen at least seven hard markets that I can recall and watched an incredible amount of change in the industry over the years. The California insurance market lost its desirability after the passage of Proposition 103 in 1986. Prop. 103 changed the insurance commissioner’s position to an elective position and most significantly in my mind changed California from a file and use state to a prior approval state. But California’s economy continued to grow at an incredible rate and carried the industry with it. Last year’s P/C premium reached a staggering $49 billion; larger than many country’s GNP.

In 1995 we were fortunate to be able to launch Insurance Journal/Texas. The Texas market is very large and very dynamic and we have a great many new friends in Texas. By 1998 we were the only magazine on the West Coast and the leading magazine in the Texas/South Central market. We can attribute our success to two things: our advertisers and our readers. This business is blessed with many wonderful people in all segments of the industry. We have been blessed by having clients and readers that are really wonderful.

I’m boring you with all this history to give you a little insight into what we have planned as a sort of 80th birthday present. We are going to take Insurance Journal national by launching three more regional editions. The Dec. 1 issue will be the premier issues of Insurance Journal/Midwest; Insurance Journal/East and Insurance Journal/ Southeast. Regular publication will begin with the first issue in Jan. 2004.

What is really going to set us apart is our regional content. We are making a substantial investment of time and money to provide the independent agent and the wholesaler regionally specific information that is critical to their business. We’re not going to have one magazine with a regional section. This is important because insurance is a very regional business, with changing local natural catastrophe risks to varying state regulations.

Our hope is to raise the bar on coverage of the insurance industry. By going national, we hope to directly compete with other industry magazines geared toward independent producers. One advantage we can offer advertisers is our biweekly publication schedule, compared to our competitors’ monthly schedule. This gives our advertisers the opportunity to be in front of their consumers more often. Companies will be able to come in and influence a market more quickly, not only in print but also on the Web.

And as always, we will continue to provide you with the latest breaking news on our Web site, www.insurancejournal.com. Thanks for reading.

Mark Wells is the publisher of Insurance Journal magazines. He can be reached via e-mail at mwells@insurancejournal.com.

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