WorldPaper, little known in US, is alive and growing after five years

Martin Stone, current chairman of the board of WorldPaper says, without hesitation, ''This is the most exciting venture I've been involved in.'' Seated in the monthly journal's modest Boston headquarters, he makes this statement from the point of view of a seasoned businessman who has founded his own successful company, Monograms. Mr. Stone is also current owner of California Business, a glossy regional magazine that speaks to an upscale audience of investors, entrepreneurs, and businessmen on the West Coast.

''And,'' he continues, ''when I was first approached by Harry Hollins, the originator of the WorldPaper idea, and Crocker Snow, who is now editor and publisher, I gave it one chance in 300 to succeed. But I did invest $50,000 five years ago.''

WorldPaper put out its first issue in January 1979. Today the paper reaches 800,000 readers and appears in three languages: Spanish, English, and Portuguese. It is carried as an insert in 20 papers in 19 countries. It has appeared recently in a smaller format in a small selection of magazines. One, The Executive, is published in Hong Kong.

The editorial inspiration for WorldPaper is the concept that the world has become socially and politically related, that there is a need for addressing a worldwide audience. Both Snow, who was a foreign correspondent for the Boston Globe, and Stone, who traveled widely for business reasons, saw the appeal in Harry Hollins's international concept. Hollins, who founded the Institute for World Order, and who joined the World Federalist Organization in the 1940s, wanted to start a newspaper that would implement two basic ideas:

* It would run articles by writers indigenous to the countries from which they were reporting;

* WorldPaper would be carried as an insert in existing host papers abroad with substantial distribution.

Says Stone, ''I was truly bothered by the fact that all the bureau chiefs around the world for American papers and magazines, Time and Newsweek, for example, were American. I felt their reports from other countries omitted any real understanding of local opinion, and that they conveyed a false emphasis to the American reader.

WorldPaper's home office is at 44 Kilby Street on the edge of Boston's downtown financial district. Its quarters are on the third floor of an old brick building above the European Deli and the Lodge Restaurant. The quaintness of the setting is not unattractive - a visitor enters a large airy space divided by waist-high wooden barriers.

The president, Wilford Welch, works on one side of the hall. Crocker Snow, sits across from him, and various staff members occupy other scattered desks. In a back room, designers work on the format, and there are facilities for computerized typesetting. A small conference room completes the space. With 10 people full time and two more working out of a New York office, Snow feels the paper is still ''ridiculously understaffed.'' But 1984 has seen additions in the editorial, advertising, and marketing departments, notably the husband-wife team of Hodding Carter and Patt Deria, who have become associate editors for the United States.

It is the Boston office that handles the mechanics of getting the paper out, receiving, editing, and translating copy, in addition to sizing sets of negatives to be sent to the host papers for printing. Snow points out, ''It is important to realize that the paper or magazine that carries WorldPaper abdicates editorial control'' for the insert. Articles by WorldPaper editors and writers come in from all parts of the globe. If they are written in French, for example, they are translated into English in Boston, then retranslated for distribution in Portuguese and Spanish.

According to Snow, WorldPaper's international advertising is growing. Concerted efforts to obtain advertising from large companies such as IBM, Xerox, AT&T, Pan Am, and OPIC have proved successful. Two new accounts, Hertz and Bank of Boston, were added recently, and Shearson/American Express is a potential advertiser worldwide. Snow is proud of the fact that advertising revenues covered five-sevenths of the cost of printing and distributing the June 1984 issue. Martin Stone states that by 1985 or early 1986, WorldPaper should pass the break-even point and begin to show a profit.

The appeal to advertisers is obvious - the distribution reaches markets not easily touched otherwise. In Latin America, WorldPaper claims a circulation greater than Time magazine. In Asia, it has cornered 10 times the circulation of the Wall Street Journal, although Snow concedes the Journal has ''better demograpics'' - i.e., reaches a higher income group.

Lack of recognition in the US is one of the anomalies of WorldPaper's five-year existence. There was an attempt, early on, to have it carried as an insert in the Boston Globe, but it was dropped. From the point of view of advertisers, it does not pay to distribute widely in the US. Says Snow, ''If the Globe did carry us, we'd reach a circulation of 600,000 in the Boston/New England area, but our advertisers are interested primarily in an upscale, worldwide audience they wouldn't reach otherwise.'' There has been an effort to approach a new paper in Washington, D.C., the Washington Weekly, and Snow feels there is at least the possibility that it might become a domestic host paper.

At the moment, readership in the US is confined almost exclusively to advertisers and investors. A scant 2,000 issues are run off for domestic distribution, and the paper is not read either by members of the Congress or competing news organizations to any large degree. Jerry Buckley, a Newsweek reporter in Boston, comments, ''Frankly, I've barely heard of it, and I don't have time to read it. I have enough to do just keeping up with New England news and our own national papers.'' Rick Hornik, Boston bureau chief for Time, concurs. Hornik comments further on the representation of foreign viewpoints, ''My feeling is that most news organizations want to exert far greater control over their correspondents.''

What other journalists criticize - the lack of control of viewpoint - Martin Stone views as a distinct strength. ''If we have a report from India or Indonesia, it's by a leading Indian or Indonesian. The whole aim is to get away from American bias.'' He cites the instance of an article by a Brazilian reporter that criticized the US for running the Olympics as a profitmaking enterprise. Says Stone, ''Personally, I disagreed with his attitude entirely. I think it is better for the citizens of any country to be left debt-free after the Olympics. But what this writer offered was the opinion of a large segment of Brazil's population.''

There is an effort on the part of the paper to concentrate on subjects that can be characterized as of global concern. The August 1984 issue examined the impact of rock music worldwide. The September issue dealt with the use and abuse of amnesty by dissident groups. And the American presidential election was the focus of the October issue. Says Snow of the election, ''We feel this is an important event that affects people all over the world - yet most of them don't have a vote to influence the outcome.''

From the beginning, WorldPaper has attracted a diverse and often illustrious group of backers and investors, people drawn from business, communications, and the world of nonprofit organizations. A number, such as economist John Kenneth Galbraith; John Cole, founder and former editor of the Maine Times; and Frank Hatch, former minority leader of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, hail from nearby New England turf. But the roster also includes James Rouse, whose urban renovations have won national acclaim; C. Douglas Dillon, secretary of the Treasury under John F. Kennedy; Hans Neumann, executive vice-president of Venezuela's largest morning paper in Spanish; and there are distinguished others. There is also an international board that lists Conrad Black, chairman of the Argus Corporation; Francoise Giroud, writer and former Minister of Culture in the French Cabinet of Giscard d'Estaing; John W. Acda, president of Radio Nedlerland; and others who represent Italy, England, Japan, Colombia, Norway, the Philippines, Lebanon, and Argentina.

These board members and investors often attend the twice yearly meetings of the working editors and writers. Snow characterizes them as ''a group of internationalists, who recognize the limitations of national newspapers. Many of them are entrepreneurs or company presidents, the sort of people who value a good idea and who also have the means to back it.''

Projections for WorldPaper's future are, not surprisingly, optimistic. The costs of new sets of negatives for distribution to a growing list of host papers are small in the face of increased advertising income. Says Snow, ''After five years of energetic groping, we feel we've convinced an important group of people that this venture is worthwhile.

Martin Stone is even more specific: ''We're aiming for a circulation of over 3 million in 5 years. We expect to be carried in approximately 50 papers. Our aim is to put out a better editorial product, and we are absolutely certain that the advertising will come to support our efforts. We are also looking for new investors. We have some very wealthy people on our board right now, but our goal is not to have any one person in control. We are definitely interested in attracting more foreign investors, and in continuing to seek new host papers abroad.''

Idealistic as an international paper may sound, a firm sense of business enterprise has contributed to WorldPaper's growth. Attaining readership and recognition in the US may be the next important step for a paper that has attained a degree of visibility worldwide. Snow is fond of quoting one investor, James Rouse, who said, ''If the idea is good, it has to make money and succeed.'' WorldPaper, having survived the classic five-year test period, seems poised on the threshold of a black bottom line - that happy milestone of every successful business operation.

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