The Guide To America's Mailstream
News & Commentary : Postal2020.com
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News & Commentary

Here’s An Envelope You Can Really Plant

Here’s An Envelope You Can Really PlantI got something in the mail the other day that you don’t often see: An envelope suitable for planting.

No kidding, this was an envelope sent by PowerOfEnvelopes.org and saturated with seeds. All you do is place the envelope in the ground, add water and Nature will take care of the rest.

We sometimes forget the envelopes provide important values in the communication process. Mail is a tactile medium that you can touch and hold. It offers the benefits of utility, economy, authenticity, and universality. Words on paper are real, and so are signatures and sentiments. Envelopes, in particular, convey privacy and security. They are socially inviolate.

In fact, research from the Envelope Manufacturers Association Foundation shows that:

___84% of consumers says envelopes leave a memorable impression.

___Three out of four people prefer bills when sent inside an envelope.

___Americans are three times more likely to pay attention to direct mail sent to their homes than to unsolicited email, Internet banners or pop-up ads, telephone calls, text messages and at-home visits combined.

As to that envelope I received, I have a great place in the garden which could use a few more flowers.

Should We Close Local Post Offices On Saturdays?

Should We Close Local Post Offices On Saturdays?According to an editorial in the Observer-Reporter (Washington, PA), it’s time to end Saturday postal deliveries.

“The recent increase in the cost of a first-class postage stamp from 41 cents to 42 cents was hardly surprising, compared to the increased in the cost of gasoline, food and just about everything else,” said the paper.

“It could have easily been avoided, however. All the U.S. Postal Service needs to do to drastically cut expenses and the necessity for several future postal-rate increases is one simple thing: Eliminate Saturday delivery.”

And why should Saturday deliveries be curtailed?

“Just think of the amount of fuel that would not be burned if mail were not delivered on Saturdays,” said the paper.

“Most people,” continued the Observer-Reporter, “communicate with friends and family by e-mail now. Many receive and pay bills online. Most of what arrives in the mailbox these days is just junk mail, anyway.”

The thought that the Postal Service could cut costs by ending Saturday deliveries is no different than suggesting that hospital expenses could be reduced if only the emergency room was shut down on weekends.

The Postal Service has a high percentage of fixed costs — all those people, vehicles and local post offices. If local post offices are closed on Saturdays it means there is less volume to support the system but many of the fixed costs remain in place — you still need a given number of people, vehicles and facilities to reach almost 150 million physical addresses.

The Observer-Reporter says “most of what arrives in the mailbox these days is just junk mail, anyway.” In other words, advertising mail.

How is paper-based advertising sent through the mailstream any different than paper-based advertising delivered by the Observer-Reporter? Would the Observer-Reporter agree that it could cut its costs and save paper if only it would not carry advertising inserts one day a week? Think of all the fuel used by delivery trucks that could be saved if the Observer-Reporter published less often. Would not such economies please owners and shareholders?

A lot of newspapers and magazines go through the mailstream. In fiscal 2007, according to the Postal Service, 8.8 billion newspapers and magazines were delivered by mail.

Many communication companies that publish newspapers also have subsidiaries to market through the mailstream. Indeed, many newspapers offer “Total Market Coverage” plans that include postal deliveries. Surely it would not be good for TMC programs if the local post office was shut down on Saturdays.

Some TMC programs are huge. The Newspaper Association of America says that 3,520,000 million piece per week are delivered in Los Angeles, 2,385,371 in Chicago and 570,000 in Miami.

If advertising through the mailstream is not effective or productive, does it not make sense that advertisers would go elsewhere? Should not the marketplace decide such issues? In fact, according to Robert Coen, senior vice president, director of forecasting with Universal McCann, the huge advertising agency, advertisers in the world, advertisers now spend more marketing through the mailstream than through newspapers.

In the December 2007 issue of his “Insider’s Report,” Coen said that advertisers spent $60.998 billion with mail marketing in 2007 versus $42.94 billion with newspapers.

Although the Observer-Reporter is surely concerned by 42 cent stamps it somehow fails to mention the rates paid by newspapers — 13.6 to 16.8 cents per piece, according to the Newspaper Association of America.

The fact is that the U.S. marketplace is vast and all forms of advertising should be welcomed and encouraged because they stimulate sales and create jobs. That’s good for the economy, good for local communities and good for readers in Washington, PA.

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.