U.S. Postal Service
A commentator I respect, Joe Wikert, published a piece last week headlined "How Print Is Killing Publishers" that at first struck me as completely wrongheaded and backwards. But what we have here is failure to communicate.
"Print is a publisher's silent killer" because publishers are relying on print "even at the expense of digital transformation and growth," Wikert wrote for Book Business magazine. "The crazy part is we all know it's a big problem and yet very few publishers are taking evasive action."
If Congress decides to allow private delivery of newspapers and magazines on Sundays, the nation's largest printing company is ready to step in.
"We are looking at alternative delivery methods for content, for physical content," Thomas J. Quinlan, CEO of R.R. Donnelley, told financial analysts this week. (SeekingAlpha has the complete transcript.) "With the platform that we've built . . . with the addition of [recently acquired competitor] Consolidated Graphics, we've got the ability to be in the majority of populated cities in the United States."
Although Wall Street mostly yawned when Quad/Graphics announced this week it is acquiring Brown Printing, the pending transaction is a big deal for many major publishers. And it provides some interesting insights into the U.S. printing and publishing industries and even into the U.S. Postal Service.
For publishers of major magazines and catalogs - those with a print order of at least, say, 200,000 copies - the country's third largest magazine printer has been the chief supplier of Duopoly Insurance.
Postal officials, who frequently complain about losing money on Periodicals mail, bear much of the blame for that loss, according to the Postal Regulatory Commission.
“The Commission is increasingly concerned that the Postal Service’s Periodicals pricing strategy is leading to inefficient mailer preparation,” the commission wrote recently in its review of 2013 postal rates, echoing a complaint that magazines have been making for the past decade.
Magazine advertising gains market share in the U.S., but the actual number of magazine copies is declining faster than ever: What in this crazy multimedia world is going on?
Two statistics released this week underscore a counter-intuitive trend: U.S. publishers seem to be prospering despite printing fewer copies of actual magazines.
In honor of the first day of spring, and in solidarity with procrastinators everywhere, we hereby present the Best and Worst of Dead Tree Edition in 2013:
- The Stats: 200,800 visits, according to Google Analytics, with 272,070 page views, 123,625 unique visitors, and an average visit lasting 1 minute and 1 second. Lesson: Take any claims about "unique visitors" with a grain of salt...
We were told for so long about the imminent, inevitable withering of print media that we tend to mistake any signs of life -- or digital hiccups -- as The Second Coming of Print Media.
After all, printed publications aren't exactly going gangbusters, nor is the commercial printing industry. More physical bookstores are closing than opening, retail distribution of magazines is collapsing, and don't even get me started on delivery of subscription magazines by the U.S. Postal Service. Print has been going down so long that "flat" looks like "up."
The U.S. Postal Service doesn’t know whether the Flats Sequencing System is reducing its costs and doesn’t seem to be trying to find out.
As a result, one major mailer is calling for hefty price increases on “Standard flats” (such as catalogs) that would presumably spill over to the Periodicals class (magazines and newspapers) as well.
The bad news for the mailing industry keeps on coming, dimming the prospects that the two-year-old postal rate hike that went into effect days ago will end.
On Thursday, the Senate committee on homeland security and government affairs voted 9-1 to advance to the Senate floor the Postal Reform Act, a bill sponsored by chairman and ranking member Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). In its current form, the bill would make permanent the emergency rate increase and give the U.S. Postal Service carte blanche the authority to set future rates.
Subscribers used to seeing Chicago magazine tucked inside their mailboxes each month are more likely to find them tossed somewhere on their porches or driveways instead. Starting with the February issue, the Tribune Co.-owned magazine has ceased using the United States Postal Service for delivery to a majority of its subscribers, opting instead to utilize the Chicago Tribune's own distribution system.