Insurance Journal Goes National, Keeps Regional Focus

By | October 3, 2003

Insurance Journal, published in California since 1923 and Texas since the mid-1990s, 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 InsuranceJournal.com, 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.”

The Wells Publishing sales department built the magazine’s national subscription base by working with state agents’ associations and Dunn & Bradstreet to find agencies interested in receiving Insurance Journal, which is free for qualifying agents and brokers.

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. We are investing a ton of money to provide the independent insurance agent and the wholesaler regionally specific information that’s critical to their business. They have their own stand-alone magazine, the content of which is managed and written by a managing editor in each region.”

“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 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 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. “There’s so much money and so much at stake. 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.”

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