Sticking with you
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As we have replayed a bit of WORLD’s history during this 40th anniversary year, we have not yet discussed the single biggest factor in our longevity, humanly speaking: our audience.
Forgive me for calling you an audience. It’s not quite the right word.
For the first 25 years of our existence, when we were merely magazine publishers, we called you our “readers” or “subscribers.” Things were simpler then.
In the early 2000s, our main business objective was to increase the number of subscribers. We wanted—and thought we needed—a big number we could sell to advertisers. We did have some big numbers in those days, but when we thought of our subscribers as numbers, the relationship changed.
I remember the day that then-CEO Nick Eicher asked why we were trying to claim ever-higher numbers of subscribers. “We have a passionate, core group of readers who have been with us forever,” he said. “Let’s just stick with them.”
By the way, we do have readers who have been with us forever, in a way. I regularly meet people who have been subscribing from the very beginning. I meet even more who tell me they’ve been with WORLD since Eternity. That’s their way of saying they joined WORLD in 1988 (fewer than two years after our first issue), when WORLD bought the subscriber list for Eternity magazine and converted them to WORLD subscriptions.
Whether you’ve been with us forever or not, “sticking with” you has been the best thing we’ve ever done.
But it hasn’t made it any easier figuring out what to call you. Once we started the podcasts, neither “readers” nor “subscribers” quite fit. We took to calling you “members” for a while (I still sometimes do), because you are participants in WORLD’s mission. I have used “readers and listeners,” which worked fine until we started WORLDWatch. “Readers and listeners and viewers” is a mouthful.
“Friends” feels a little smarmy, even though you are friends; “partners” sounds a little fundraise-y, even though you are partners. Family? Probably overplayed.
And so I come back to “audience,” I guess, but an audience of readers, listeners, and viewers invested in different ways in WORLD’s mission, who are friends and partners and—dare I say?—family.
You’ve stuck with us all these 40 years, and with God’s help, we will stick with you forever.
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