Wednesday, December 8, 2021

SearchResearch Challenge (12/8/21): What's the deal with Iowa and magazine renewals?

 I noticed something odd the other day... 

Renewal labels from several magazines.  Notice anything odd here? 

As you know, oddities--the things that don't quite fit into the normal patterns--often lead to SearchResearch Challenges.  So it is today.  

I subscribe to several magazines and as happens, they tend to shed subscription forms like those above. You know, as you pick them up, little renewal cards flutter down like snow on the fields of Iowa.  

As I was picking up a few magazines the other day, I noticed that a lot of them have addresses in either Harlan or Boone, Iowa.  What?  

Now I have to admit that I'd never heard of Boone or Harlan, Iowa, so I got curious.  And that leads to today's SRS Challenge.

1. Why are so many magazine subscription renewals sent to Harlan or Boone, IA?  Why there?  

It just seems like such a random place to send magazine renewal forms.  If I read my maps correctly, neither of them are especially near any large cities with a workforce that could handle a (presumed) onslaught of renewal forms.  

So... why?  How?  Whither renewal forms to Iowa?  

Don't get me wrong, Iowa seems like a lovely state, but I have no idea why magazine subscriptions should end up there.  

Can you figure it out?  

Let all of us know what you did to find out the answer to the Challenge.  

Search on! 


  1. I knew that the term used for managing magazine subscriptions is called “fulfillment” … so I searched for ["magazine fulfillment" boone harlan iowa]

    That turned up a number of LinkedIn profiles for folks working at a company called CDS Global.

    Its website doesn’t appear to give any corporate history, but its locations do include Boone & Harlan. (

    The CDS Global Wikipedia page ( says the company's origin was with the Look Magazine circulation department, which had put its subscriber info on magnetic tape in 1971. Two months later, however, Look magazine folded!

    As described in the Wikipedia article’s reference 4 (a page 1 article in the Oct. 26, 1997 edition of the Des Moines Register, which is available on and the jump page continuation:, six Look employees then had the idea to offer their computer system expertise to other publishers.

    (The president at that time was Don Ross … I don’t know if he’s related. I'll have to investigate further, as I do have cousins in Iowa!)

    A subsidiary of Hearst Corporation since 1982, CDS Global says that it "manages 200 million customer relationships for more than 1,000 total organizations worldwide." (

    Looking up the history of Look Magazine (, I see that it was founded in 1937 by Gardner "Mike" Cowles Jr., who was executive editor of The Des Moines Register and The Des Moines Tribune, and his brother, John.

    Their father – Gardner Cowles, Sr., ( the son of a Methodist minister who served in a variety of Iowa towns – was born in Oskaloosa, Iowa, in 1861. He succeeded in banking and in 1903 bought the Des Moines Register and Leader newspapers, beginning what would become a significant regional media empire (including the daily papers in Minneapolis) (

    Gardner Cowles Sr.'s father, William Fletcher Cowles (a descendant of "Puritans and Covenanters" and, through his mother, Mayflower passenger Richard Gardner), was born in New York, became a Methodist preacher in 1841 and came to Iowa in 1851 (

    So it looks like 19th Century Methodist evangelism is responsible for this magazine subscription service to be based in Iowa. :-)

  2. P.S. ... Moving to Page 2 of my [William Fletcher Cowles] search, I find more a more detailed and interesting Cowles family history starting on page 25 of the book "Look: How a Highly Influential Magazine Helped Define Mid-Twentieth-Century America" by Andrew L. Yarrow (U of Nebraska Press), which just came out Nov. 1, 2021.

  3. I think Mike does a nice synopsis of CDS being located in Harlan… here are a couple other bits… in the dark on Boone… maybe they grow
    fiberoptic cable there – soy based?;-]
    mergers and acquisitions and entropy…
    Goo is in the area… with deer, 47.6 miles from Harlan (closer than Boone), used: •history of fulfillment data venters in iowa•
    Goo books

    under 'other'
    Hearst behemoth based in NYC
    “We’re generating 30 percent of our revenue from products that didn’t exist three years ago,” (more now, no doubt)
    Business Information Is Becoming Big(ger) Business

  4. After poking around a bit, I decided to focus on Boone County businesses and looked at the Chamber of Commerce site which had a search function for business types which is how I found CDS Global:

    The Wikipedia article on the company has a footnote referencing a Des Moines Register story called Good idea grows out of tragedy. It also mentions the connection to Look Magazine after it folded and the purchase of the computerized subscription lists by the founder of CDS.

    A Google search of the article name found a wiki post about Look Magazine that references the same Register story and describes Look Magazine being published in Des Moines. So I guess it expanded throughout the state form there, lots of locations.

  5. This one was pretty quick. I searched Google for magazine renewals Iowa. One of the other suggested searches was Harlan Iowa magazine subscriptions. That led me to a Quora article on the subject (, which pointed to some credible information on Wikipedia about CDS ( and Harlan, IA (,_Iowa#Economy).

  6. [magazines Harlan Iowa] finds this in Wikipedia:

    CDS Global, Inc. is a multinational corporation based in Des Moines, Iowa, that provides business process outsourcing and customer data management to various industries worldwide.

    They handle 710 million consumer sales promotions, 65 million customer service interactions and 1 billion transactions annually, including 180 million payments totalling $7.1 billion,[1] through 16 facilities in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Australia.[2]

    CDS Global is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hearst Corporation and is the largest magazine fulfillment house in North America...Order management and fulfillment
    In addition to physical product delivery, CDS Global handles subscriptions, recurring billings, digital access[19] and account services. . .CDS Global manages 159 million customer files for nearly 60 percent of the publishing industry

    It has a big depot in Iowa, in part, to manage subscription data for 3,000 magazines, including, it seems yours.

  7. Oxford English Dictionary Redux: On Dr. Russell’s recommendation I read The Professor and the Madman and found it an informative and engaging book. It is well-written (erudite prose and no split infinitives), well-researched, and provides the intellectual and historical context of this unique (in the strictest sense of the word) work on the history of the English language. It isn’t often that I find a non-fiction book to be a page-turner.

    “page turner n. (a) a person who turns the pages of a book, musician's score, etc.; (b) a (mechanical) device for turning the pages of a book; (c) figurative a very engrossing or readable book.
    1971 Life 7 May 20/2 The Exorcist [is] a page-turner par excellence.”

    One takeaway is that it seems that even the dreariest of lives in its circumstances can be made somewhat more cheerful by a sense of purpose.

    There is a film of the same name with Sean Penn and Mel Gibson which can be streamed for free through Kanopy.