Entrepreneur, innovator, oenophile, insurance industry icon, all around great guy.
That’s Mark Wells, the force behind Insurance Journal and Wells Media Group, who this year is celebrating his 50thanniversary in insurance industry publishing.
There have been plenty of challenges at Insurance Journal over the past 50 years, especially in the beginning, Wells told Peter van Aartrijk, host of the long-running On Point podcast on InsuranceJournal.com.
Under Wells’ leadership, Insurance Journal has grown from a regional California print publication covering the property/casualty insurance industry to a national trade media force, birthing new brands such as Carrier Management, Claims Journal, MyNewMarkets, Insurance Journal TV and Insurance Journal Academy of Insurance, all of which now reside under the aegis of Wells Media Group.
Wells said his father bought the precursor to Insurance Journal during the Great Depression for $1,000, assuming the previous publication’s debts and converting it into a property/casualty magazine.
“My father passed away in 1970, and my mother and I took over the business. It was not in good shape. We were kind of broke,” Wells told van Aartrijk. At the time, the publishing environment was very competitive, with numerous organizations covering the insurance industry, and it took a while to get the business back on its feet, he said.
“We started out as a California regional publication, and then West Coast. In the ’90s, the late ’90s, we started playing around with the internet. We put the magazine on the internet, and then we learned quickly that that was not going to work, so we decided to publish the news daily and email it out. It just took off from there,” Wells said.
Over the years, Insurance Journal has covered the rise of the excess and surplus lines insurance industry, which began in California with the formation of Swett and Crawford in the 1960s. There were lots of local, successful regional carriers and wholesale brokers that eventually were acquired by national firms — a trend that endures today. “It’s interesting. We had had mergers and acquisitions for the last 50 years, and [it’s] going on again right now,” Wells said.
The industry continues to be a vibrant one, he added. “The wholesale brokerage business, the excess and surplus lines business, has just grown dramatically. … It’s something to watch. It’s amazing. They’ve been able to answer a need and write a ton of business.”
As the insurance industry has adapted and changed over the past 50 years, Insurance Journal has evolved along with it.
“When I started, we were a print publishing company. I’m an old-fashioned print person. The internet has changed everything. Changed it not only for our business, but business in general. Now, everything is digital. Even as late as 2008, 90% of our revenue was in print. Today, it’s a little under 50%. Most of our advertising’s now digital. It’s really evolved. It’s hard to keep up. We’ve got a great group of people really running the business right now. They’re young, they’re innovative, they’re totally at home on the internet and the digital space,” Wells said.
While the coronavirus pandemic has been an extremely disruptive force worldwide, Wells remains optimistic that the industry and the community at large will rebound.
“There will be a solution. It may not be what everybody wants, but there will be a solution,” he said. It will take time and a vaccine in order for the world to get back to normal, “but the industry will respond. They’ll innovate.”
Top photo: The Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation event at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles on March 16, 2017, honored the year’s Golden Horizon Award winner, Mark Wells, CEO and publisher of Wells Media Group, the parent company of Insurance Journal and other industry publications. Wells has directed his company to donate more than $1.2 million over the past 10 years to insurance-related charities.
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