The Guide To America's Mailstream
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All Posts Tagged With: "mail"

Mail Means 8,300,000 Jobs Inside Our Borders

Mail Means 8,300,000 Jobs Inside Our BordersOne of the largest industries in America is virtually unknown, yet it anchors more than 8,300,000 jobs and is related to the production of goods and services worth $1.2 trillion. (For details, see the 2008 Economic Jobs Study Final Report)

The postal system in this country is so important that it’s actually included in the U.S. Constitution — Section 8 says that only Congress shall have the power to “establish post offices and post roads.”

Why Congress? And why not the states? Because the Founders knew that unlike the situation in Europe, a single postal system with one set of standards and one set of prices could bind the national together. All citizens, no matter where they lived, would pay the same fee for the same services.

No less important, the U.S. postal system requires no payments from recipients. We have a sender-funded delivery system, meaning that senders take all the financial risk when they send materials through the mailstream. (In contrast, email recipients pay  and that’s why it doesn’t matter if a spammer broadcasts 10 messages or a million emails, the cost is about the same.)

This is a site which says that the mailstream is important to the country, that we as a Nation are not so wealthy that we can afford to lose millions of jobs inside our borders and that a reasonable discussion of the mailing system is helped by the availability of factual information and data.

The Check Is Less Often In The Mail

The Check Is Less Often In The MailThe check is not in the mail — at least as not as often as it used to be.

Figures from the Federal Reserve show that “the number of checks paid in the United States has fallen from 42 billion in 2001, to 37 billion in 2003, and to 30 billion in 2006.”

Whoops. That’s 12 billion checks that vanished in just five years. You can bet that the trend continues and that future reports will show even fewer paper-based checks in 2008 and beyond.

Why is this a mailstream matter? Why are postal jobs at stake? Should the Postal Service be concerned?

In many cases the reduction in check volume reflects the increased use of electronic deposits. If this means that a foreman no longer goes around the plant floor on a Friday giving out envelopes then we do not have a postal issue in the sense of deliveries and such.

But many checks are sent through the mails. It’s difficult to imagine that we have 12 billion fewer checks and no mail volume reduction. Okay, it’s impossible to imagine.

The Postal Service and the mailer community cannot undo either progress or technology. But the question ought to be asked: If the volume represented by checks — those checks that really are in the mail — is being reduced, then what new volume is being created?

This is the essential issue for the mailer community. As postal volume declines and fixed expenses largely remain, increased hard costs per piece must be absorbed by remaining users. As prices per piece rise the incentive to avoid the postal system grows.

What to do? The Postal Service needs to demonstrate why paper-based communication and exchange have value in the electronic era. There’s a good argument to be made — if only someone would make it.

Mail, AARP & 53 Million Trees

Mail, AARP & 53 Million TreesAccording to the AARP Bulletin, “the 19 billion catalogs mailed to Americans every year consume 3.6 million tons of paper and 53 million trees.” (See May 2008, Page 25)

Such a short sentence. Can it be true?

Let’s see, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, advertising mail (also known as “Standard A” mail) totals 5.89 million tons before recycling. However, 2.28 million tons are recycled, a recovery rate of 38.7%. (See: 2006 MSW Characterization Data Tables, EPA, table 4).

So, if we subtract 2.28 million tons from 5.89 million tons we get 3.61 million tons of advertising mail.

Does this mean that 3.6 million tons of material was made from trees? Nope. Not hardly. Much of what goes through the mailstream comes from recycled materials.

Not only that, but not all advertising mail consists of “catalogs.” According to the U.S. Postal Service, Standard A mail includes printed matter, flyers, circulars and advertising; newsletters, bulletins and catalogs; and small packages.

But let’s say there are 19 billion catalogs. How much ad mail is sent out each year?

According to the 2007 annual report of the U.S. Postal Service and there we can see that 103.5 billion pieces of ad mail went through the mailstream.

Nineteen billion items sure seems like a small part of 103.5 billion items, which means that it’s not possible for 19 billion catalogs to use 3.6 million tons of paper unless flyers, circulars, newspapers and such suddenly weigh nothing.

Now, about those trees:

If we have 3.6 million tons of ad mail, and if each ton weighs 2,000 pounds, that would mean we have 7,200,000,000 pounds of material. If it takes 53 million trees to make 7.2 billion pounds of paper then an average “tree” weighs just 135.84 pounds!

Does this make sense to anyone?

According to AARP’s 2005 IRS Form 990, the association spent $108.3 million on “printing and shipping.”

AARP says that its “more than 36 million members receive ‘AARP The Magazine,’ which is published every other month (bimonthly)” and that “all members also receive 11 issues of ‘AARP Bulletin,’ a monthly publication (July and August are combined).”

That’s six magazines per year x 36,000,000 or 216,000,000 million magazines annually plus 11 bulletins per year x 36,000,000 or 396,000,000 bulletins — a total of 612,000,000 paper-based items sent through the mailstream per year.

Surely if AARP is worried about teeny micro trees it could shut off its own distribution torrent and rebate $100 million or so to its members. Otherwise it ought to explain why using the mail is okay for AARP — but not okay for others. It should also explain what will happen to stamp prices if advertisers leave the mailstream.

Most importantly, if mail volume is reduced AARP should explain what will happen to the jobs inside our borders that are anchored by the mailstream. As The Washington Post has explained:

“The Postal Service has about 738,000 employees, relies on revenue from operations rather than taxpayer funding and is one of few federal bureaucracies with which most Americans have regular contact. It is at the center of a $900 billion mailing industry, which employs 9 million people in such businesses as direct mail, paper manufacturers and printers.”

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 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.

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, 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, 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, All Rights Reserved.