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From bad to worse

Decades-old business attitudes were canaries in the cultural coal mine

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In the early days of WORLD Magazine we struggled to stay alive. We knew the lifeblood of most successful magazines was advertising revenue. We had learned that magazines like Time, People, and Better Homes & Gardens typically secured two-thirds of their revenue from ads, with loyal subscribers providing the rest.

But even after several years of publishing at WORLD, we’d attracted enough ad revenue to cover no more than 10 or 15 percent of our costs. The ratio was all wrong. A friend of mine, with years of expertise in our field, told us bluntly that we had an “impossible publishing formula.”

I decided to hit the road. I knew some top executives in half a dozen large companies—a key marketing man with Coca-Cola, an ad writer for Chrysler, a top man at a big brokerage, and a vice president at Maytag. Wasn’t it reasonable to think they’d see it as a good investment to get some valuable ad space for goods and services and at the same time be responsive to my appeal that they support a cause like WORLD’s distinctive Bible-shaped journalism?

My corporate friends were expressing an abstract fear of something ominous.

Not so. One of the men summed things up when, as he leafed through our current issue, he shook his head and said: “I dunno. Looks pretty religious to me. I just don’t see it as a very good fit.” Indeed, it was just such an expression of secularism that tended to characterize every last one of these prospects. I doubt if even one of them thought of himself as a secularist—but in practical terms, such is the philosophy that shapes their business lives. For them, anything that sounds a little “religious” is probably something, sooner or later, that’s bound to cause trouble.

Keep in mind these men were not just professing Christians—but folks who had reputations as seriously committed believers. I am fairly certain that if I’d dropped by to see them a generation earlier, most or even all of them would have signed on with warm enthusiasm. But my corporate friends were expressing an abstract fear of something ominous on the horizon. I understood their caution but begged them to prepare early rather than late.

So why bring this up now, some 30 years afterward? Partly because so little has changed.

Advertising revenue has grown, but slowly. Instead, you readers, through your subscriptions and especially your charitable gifts, have helped balance our budget, year after year.

Corporate advertising, of the sort I hoped for and described above, has through the years continued to be almost invisible.

But some of the picture is also quite different. Three or four decades ago, I failed to “close the deal” with half a dozen business leaders—mostly because they didn’t want their landscape cluttered with embarrassing “religious” artifacts. “Just keep all that at a distance,” they said.

Now, though, just keeping a distance isn’t enough. In today’s climate, extinction is more and more the goal. Withholding their good names from our advertising pages isn’t punishment enough. Now corporations are joining forces with those who want to ensure we have no page from which to withhold their names. That’s why we see the biggest businesses and many corporate giants not so subtly dictating to our culture a radical leftist value system, often appearing to be bent on the weakening and destruction of those who dissent.

Think that “extinction” and “destruction” are a bit strong? Then keep your eyes focused, in the months ahead, on issues like tax exemption and hate speech. Go back and review the pledges offered by all the Democratic presidential candidates—many of which would explicitly widen the platforms of the LGBT alliance and tighten restrictions on any entity that might be seen as critical of it. One of those candidates is now president of the United States, and others are active in his administration.

I didn’t appreciate it 30 years ago when those businessmen turned down my sales pitch. But going from reluctant ad buyers to a threatening president is, in my experience, going from bad to worse.

Joel Belz

Joel Belz (1941–2024) was WORLD’s founder and a regular contributor of commentary for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Radio. He served as editor, publisher, and CEO for more than three decades at WORLD and was the author of Consider These Things.


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