FROM TC: The articles below aren't industry-specific about the arts but should be of interest.


For first time in 40 years, no next-day delivery for first-class US mail

Hope Yen, Associated Press, 12/5/11

Unprecedented cuts by the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service will slow first-class delivery next spring and, for the first time in 40 years, eliminate the chance for stamped letters to arrive the next day. The estimated $3 billion in reductions, to be announced in broader detail later [today], are part of a wide-ranging effort by the Postal Service to quickly trim costs and avert bankruptcy. The cuts would close roughly 250 of the nearly 500 mail processing centers across the country as early as next March. The Postal Service already has announced a 1-cent increase in first-class mail to 45 cents beginning Jan. 22. About 42% of first-class mail is now delivered the following day; another 27% arrives in two days, about 31% in three days and less than 1% in four to five days. Following the change next spring, about 51% of all first-class mail is expected to arrive in two days, with most of the remainder delivered in three days. Expressing urgency to reduce costs, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said in an interview that the agency has to act while waiting for Congress to grant it authority to reduce delivery to five days a week, raise stamp prices and reduce health care and other labor costs. The Postal Service, an independent agency of government, does not receive tax money, but is subject to congressional control of large aspects of its operations. The changes in first-class mail delivery can be implemented without permission from Congress.


Commentary: The junking of the US Postal Service

Elisabeth Rosenthal, The New York Times Sunday Review section, 12/4/11

As junk mail multiplies and the US Postal Service struggles for financial survival, experts are increasingly asking the question, do Americans need Saturday mail delivery ... or daily mail delivery ... or a state-run postal service at all? Should mail be a guaranteed government service? Or has this once hallowed institution, like pay phones, outlived its utility?  The primary beneficiary is arguably the advertisers whose leaflets and catalogs flood our mailboxes. In 2010, there were 9.3 billion pounds of "standard mail" -- the low-cost postage category [for] mass advertisers -- but only 3.7 billion of first-class mail. If there is fairly wide agreement that government mail delivery today in America has little practical value for many, there is little consensus about what do to about it. Few broach doing away with the post office entirely. Even skeptics note that it still delivers essential communication to small subgroups that are not (yet) well connected online: the elderly and rural residents. And how else would we get subscription magazines? But to cover its costs, the post office needs to keep mail volume high. Some high-end direct mailers worry that the contents of American mailboxes are coming to resemble a paper infomercial [while] some experts favor a general "do not mail" option for people who do not want to receive any direct mail -- although advertisers vehemently oppose that, maintaining that unsolicited catalogs remain beloved by shoppers, and the postal system would most likely collapse if there were a sudden drop in its business. The Postal Service claims that 81% of American households surveyed in 2010 reported that they either read or scanned advertising mail.


Study: 50% of U.S. consumers prefer direct mail to email

Allison Schiff, Direct Marketing News, 12/1/11

According to a study by marketing services firm Epsilon, 50% of all U.S. consumers prefer direct mail to email and one-quarter said they found direct mail to be "more trustworthy" than email. Of the 2,226 U.S. consumers surveyed for the third Consumer Channel Preference Study, 60% said they enjoy checking their physical mailboxes, highlighting what the study refers to as an "emotional connection" to postal mail. Warren Storey, VP of product marketing and insight at ICOM, a division of Epsilon, said the findings are not all that unexpected when "you know the data and consumer trends. It's just 'surprising' because everything you hear in the media is basically counter to what the consumers are actually telling us, which is that direct mail is still the preferred channel." The most ideal way to reach consumers, according to the report, is to use a combination of media to build consumer trust, including media that some marketers might consider to be "old school," like direct mail, TV and newspapers, said Storey. "There is definitely a growing trend that email inboxes are getting more and more full," Storey said. "Over the last three years, we've seen an increase of the percentage of consumers saying, yeah, they like getting email, but they get far too many. In the U.S., 75% of consumers say they get more email than they can read." Ultimately, the overarching theme of the study, according to Storey, is that marketers should think twice before they disregard direct mail. "It's not sexy. It's not terribly innovative," he said. "But it works."


Commentary: Is your direct mail getting enough credit for your online contributions?

Tom Belford,, 12/1/11

In September 2010 a donor survey was conducted by Campbell Rinker for Dunham + Company, a US fundraising consulting firm. The remarkable findings I've just noticed (brought to my attention by a recent Queer Ideas post) relate to the interaction between direct mail appeals and online giving.

  • 14% of respondents (who were online givers) said that a direct mail letter prompted them to give online versus only 6% who said an email prompted their online gift;
  • 1 in 3 donors (37%) who give online say that when they receive a direct mail appeal from a charity they use the charity's website to give their donation;
  • One in two (50%) of generation X or Y donors say they give online in response to a direct mail appeal with 1 in 4 (26%) of boomers turning to online giving when they want to give as a result of receiving a direct mail appeal. Only 14% of those over 65 will do the same, as 3 out of 4 of this demographic prefer to give by mail.

Now, I grant that this is survey data, as opposed to hard transaction data, but even so the implications are startling. As much as one-third of the response to any given direct mail appeal could come in via the nonprofit's website. And only if your mail appeal directed respondents to a dedicated response page would you possibly know that with any certainty. So think about that. Are your direct mail returns being 'under-counted', making your mail program look weaker than it actually is? Are you integrating your mail appeals and online capture such that you can find out?

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