The Guide To America's Mailstream
Peter : Postal2020.com
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Archive for Peter

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One Daily Newspaper Goes Electronic — What About The Rest?

feature photoIf you’re a Postal Service executive, union leader or letter carrier you might want to look closely at the latest announcement from the Christian Science Monitor:

“The Christian Science Monitor,” says the paper, “plans major changes in April 2009 that are expected to make it the first newspaper with a national audience to shift from a daily print format to an online publication that is updated continuously each day.

“The changes at the Monitor will include enhancing the content on CSMonitor.com, starting weekly print and daily e-mail editions, and discontinuing the current daily print format.”

In rough terms, the Christian Science Monitor has a circulation between 75,000 to 100,000 papers a day. This circulation is primarily distributed through the mailstream but times are changing.

The paper says that “producing a website that can be updated 24/7 and delivered instantaneously ‘better fulfills Mrs. Eddy’s original vision’ for the Monitor to be daily than does a five-day-a-week paper delivered by mail with frequent delays.”

Let’s go to the numbers.

Imagine that the CSM has a circulation of 87,500 papers a day and most of it’s delivered by mail. Imagine as well that in a year there are roughly 260 weekday deliveries. This means a potential distribution of as many as 22,750,000 papers annually.

The real number of papers moving through the mails is likely smaller but the point is this: By going from a daily print paper to a weekly, and by shifting to a news product which is largely web-based, there is less mail volume.

This is not good for the Postal Service, not good for jobs within the postal system and it may be implausible for most newspapers.

It’s difficult to see how newspapers can win in this situation. The Washington Post, as one example, just reported third quarter numbers. Revenue from the newspaper division, said the company, “totaled $196.2 million for the third quarter of 2008, a decrease of 7% from $210.2 million in the third quarter of 2007; division revenue decreased 9% to $599.6 million for the first nine months of 2008, from $657.2 million for the first nine months of 2007.” Such revenue, after various charges, produced an operating loss of $82.7 million in the third quarter.

Now look at the Post’s online operations:

“Revenue generated by the Company’s online publishing activities, primarily washingtonpost.com, increased 13% to $30.8 million for the third quarter of 2008, from $27.2 million for the third quarter of 2007; online revenues increased 8% to $87.2 million in the first nine months of 2008, from $80.5 million for the first nine months of 2007. Display online advertising revenue grew 32% and 20% for the third quarter and first nine months of 2008, respectively. Online classified advertising revenue on washingtonpost.com declined 8% in the third quarter of 2008, and was down 2% for the first nine months of 2008. A small portion of the Company’s online publishing revenues is included in the magazine publishing division.”

By any standard $87 million in nine months is a bunch of money — but it’s not enough to fund the Post’s news gathering operations at their current level of quality, volume and expertise.

You can see the dilemma here: Newspapers need print distribution for the foreseeable future because paper-based products produce vastly higher revenues than online sites. The Postal Service needs newspapers, magazines and newsletters to continue as print publications because otherwise it will lose billions of pieces per year in volume. Everyone needs a strong Postal Service because of the jobs it represents nationwide. At the same time, declining circulation and mounting losses make print-based products increasingly difficult to justify for financial reasons.

You can bet that newspaper executives will be watching the Christian Science Monitor — at least to see if its new distribution plan has a prayer. And folks with an interest in the mailstream will be watching too. In all cases, it is in the public interest to have newspapers and magazine in print, doing what they do best, fulfilling the First Amendment obligation for a free and independent press.

Should Mailers Expect Better News Coverage?

Should Mailers Expect Better News Coverage?If The New York Times is to be believed, “MOST marketers readily concede it: getting rid of direct mail — or junk mail, as environmentalists and most recipients call it — would save a lot of trees. But they are not about to render bulk mailings obsolete.” (See: Direct Mail Tries to Go Green. No, Really, July 23, 2008)

Do MOST marketers want to get rid of direct mail? Is that what “MOST” marketers say? Where is the poll or survey to support such a claim? If that is what MOST marketers think, then why is it that marketers spent $61 billion advertising through the mails in 2007 — and $43 billion with newspapers?

Can it be true that “environmentalists” universally oppose the use of advertising mail? How can that be? According to their 2005 tax returns, the National Audubon Society spent $2,701,028 for fundraising postage and shipping; the National Resources Defense Council spent $1,147,114 on postage and shipping for fundraising — and raised $518,164 renting lists; and the National Wildlife Federation spent $1,516,178 on postage and shipping for fundraising, paid $185,736 to purchase list rental services and raised $916,034 from list royalties.

When asked about his group’s use of mail, Peter Bahouth, then executive director at Greenpeace, told ABC News long ago that “accusing environmental groups of paper pollution is a bit like saying that we need to get the ambulances off the street because they’re loud.”

Which major environmental group does not mail? Which major environmental group only uses websites and email? Does the Times believe that electronic media are environmentally pure?

And what about saving trees?

“Deforestation in the United States, rampant in the 19th century has stopped,” says The New York Times. “Forested acreage of the country began rising in the 20th century, and is still rising. Why? Wood is no longer a primary fuel, while high-yield agriculture allowed millions of acres to be retired from farming and returned to trees.” (See: There Goes the Neighborhood, January 30, 2005)

If the Times is concerned about saving trees, then should it not give readers the option to receive the paper without advertising inserts? Wouldn’t that save a lot of trees? And isn’t it true that the Times itself uses direct mail to market subscriptions? If yes, is the Times going to stop its direct mail efforts?

Since when did it become appropriate for The New York Times to disparage a competitive media by using the pejorative and derogatory term “junk mail” instead of direct marketing or ad mail?

As the Times itself says in its 2007 annual report, “most of our revenues are from advertising. We face formidable competition for advertising revenue in our various markets from free and paid newspapers, magazines, Web sites, television and radio, other forms of media, direct marketing and the Yellow Pages. Competition from these media and services affects our ability to attract and retain advertisers and consumers and to maintain or increase our advertising rates.”

“Magazines and newspapers have been at war with advertising mailers for a long time — ever since the mailers began siphoning ad dollars away from publications,” says The Washington Post. “Indeed, newspaper editorialists invented the term ‘junk mail’ in the early 1950s, according to Richard Kielbowicz, an associate professor of communications as the University of Washington, Seattle, and an expert on postal rate issues.” (See: The Junk Mail Plague: You Can Run But You Can’t Hide, April 22, 1991)

The Times reports that the direct mail business was “vilified even before global warming became a hot topic.”

Exactly who vilified direct mail?

“A number of foreign postal administrations deliver unaddressed advertising mail, and U.S. postal officials toyed with the idea as long ago as the 1950s,” according to The Washington Post. “The agency was not independent of the White House at the time and the Eisenhower administration rejected the proposal after a year-long test. It had come under attack by the newspaper industry, which coined the phrase ‘junk mail.’” (See: Special Delivery for ‘Junk Mail,‘ August 18, 1995)

If the Times would like to present its readers with an informed discussion of direct mail and the environment, that’s fine. Hopefully it will mention the 8,300,000 jobs and the $1.2 trillion in products and services anchored by the mailstream. Hopefully it will want to explain what their loss would mean to our country. Hopefully it will discuss how many people want to close their local post offices because of environmental concerns.

Unfortunately, an informed discussion is not possible when advertising mail is first slammed with a prejudicial term invented by commercial competitors and then saddled with one-sided claims of environmental damage. The Times owes an apology to its readers.

The Wonderful Thing About Green Is That It Comes In Different Shades

The Wonderful Thing About Green Is That It Comes In Different ShadesFew matters generate more controversy than environmental questions. Honorable people with deeply-held convictions routinely debate a host of issues, everything from owls to elephants and from old forests to new ones.

But debate is healthy. It’s a sign of activity rather than stagnation, a chance to test ideas, and an opportunity to build consensus.

Through debate and discussion we’ve come a long way since the first Earth Day in 1970. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the net volume of trees set aside for growing stock increased from 516 billion cubic feet in 1953 to more than 925 billion cubic feet in 2007.

The crusade to reduce, re-use, and recycle has been accepted nationwide. Small, inefficient landfills are being replaced by larger and safer facilities. In fact, many states now have fewer landfills — but more landfill capacity. Paper, envelopes, and catalogs that use recycled fibers, water-activated adhesives, and soy-based inks are increasingly common. Significant efforts have been made to clean the air and water, and the results can be seen in every state.

There is surely more to do, but as we celebrate Earth Day each year, let us all consider that while environmental purity and absolutism produce headlines, discussion and common sense produce results.

Mail. The Medium that Delivers.

© 2008 Postal2020.com, All Rights Reserved.

It Means Too Much To Be Called “Junk”

It Means Too Much To Be Called “Junk”Advertising mail gets a bum rap, especially from those who call it “junk mail.”

“Junk” suggests that advertising mail benefits no one, that it is useless and without worth. But the truth is that advertising mail provides important values. It fuels economic growth by generating sales. It provides jobs for people in every state. It’s vital to charitable, educational, consumer, ecological, political and medical causes nationwide. It brings coupons and catalogs to millions of Americans each day, including the elderly, the rural and the disabled.

Advertising mail supports our universal mail delivery system by lowering the cost of postal services. In fact, without advertising mail, the price of a first-class letter would soar.

Why? The Postal Service has fixed costs for people and facilities. Advertising mail represents about half of all mail volume. Take away advertising mail and to keep universal postal deliveries nationwide, six days a week, you still need most of the postal facilities and people now on the payroll. Fewer users sharing largely the same fixed costs means only one thing — vastly higher rates for the postal patrons who remain.

Don’t let anybody fool you. Advertising mail is many things. But it’s not “junk.”

Mail. The Medium that Delivers.

© 2008 Postal2020.com, All Rights Reserved.

Every Day Can Be Special When You Shop By Mail

Every Day Can Be Special When You Shop By MailFather’s Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas, a birthday, a graduation, a promotion, a new job, Valentine’s Day, an anniversary — there’s a lot to celebrate, something important almost every month.

And being in the holiday spirit — no matter which holiday is at hand — means having the right gift at the right time.

Little wonder that when it comes to special days, more and more Americans avoid the hassle of traffic, mall prices, and limited store hours to shop the easy way. By catalog.

More than 10,000 catalogs bring a world of goods and services to your front door. Clothes, furniture, electronics, books, jewelry, gift items, tools — you name it, and there’s a catalog that’s got it.

For more than 100 years mail-order catalogs have been the consumer’s best friend, an American tradition that means selection, value, and low prices. And today, when time is precious, catalogs allow consumers to shop at home, pay at home, and get delivery at home.

So the next time one of those special days is on the horizon, be prepared. Sit down, put your feet up, order by catalog. And let the world come to you.

Mail. The Medium that Delivers.

© 2008 Postal2020.com, All Rights Reserved.