The Guide To America's Mailstream
history : Postal2020.com
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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.