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Print is Dead. Get Over it. [MAIL:]

May 31, 2006

Todd Butler

Published May/June 2006
Mail: The Journal of Communication Distribution
 
 
“Print is dead. Get over it.”
 
Sports Illustrated President John Squires
 (Washington Post 2/20/2005)
 
 
Paid search is expected to grow 26% in 2006; the Postal Service is expected to lose $1.8 Billion dollars. While the Postal Service searches for ways to cut costs and increase mail volumes, its customers are searching for ways to migrate to the Internet. Many pundits are predicting the end of print advertising in our lifetime.
 
Declining volumes in First Class mail, stagnant growth in Standard mail and an increasing number of delivery stops places the Postal Service in a financial bind that will only be reduced by increasing its revenue and customer base. In the past, the break even mandate was achieved by raising rates; in the past direct marketers had no real alternative but to pay higher postage costs.
 
“Riding the Pony Express To Its Retirement”
 
That was before the Internet.
The Internet is a communications channel that on line advertisers use to make money. It provides interactive communications 24/7 and can deliver rich media (video, animation, sound) and other forms of digital advertising. A recent on line newsletter, MediaDailyNews (3/8/06), stated that “…the days of non-interactive media are numbered”.
 
It isn’t that non-interactive media is going to disappear. It just won’t dominate the marketing landscape as it does now. Newspapers and magazines understand this reality demonstrated by their moves on line. Postal management, unable to envision a digital future for hard copy mail, is doggedly riding the Pony Express to their retirement!
 
The Postal Service is a communications channel direct marketers use to make money. For the past five years the Postal Service has concentrated on getting its biggest mailers to mail more pieces. The major players in the mailing industry look to special pricing (NSA’s) as a way to reduce their costs. The Postal Service hopes to use this special pricing to increase mail volumes; covering the costs of its expanding delivery network and the financial requirements imposed by politicians with their hands in the postal cookie jar.
 
Instead of working to increase the number of pieces of existing customers’ mail, management should be working to increase the number of customers entering mail into the system. The core competency of the Postal Service is delivering hard copy messages to every residential and business address in the country six days a week. Since postal deliveries are initiated by the sender, direct mail is one of the few proactive mediums available to advertisers.
 
On line advertising delivers its content over the Internet when requested by consumers. This information is digital in nature and can provide links to other locations on the web. If this digital information is copied onto a CD/DVD and placed in a mail piece, the Postal Service can deliver the same digital content to targeted audiences. This is postal delivery of Internet advertising. The integration of print advertising, interactive CD/DVDs and links to the Internet is called Multimedia Mail. Multimedia Mail is proactive and capable of cutting through the clutter of on line and broadcast advertising.
 
So who might be interested in Multimedia Mail?
 On line advertisers are looking for an addressable medium capable of carrying rich media to targeted audiences at competitive (on line) rates. Another group searching for solutions is advertisers using non-interactive media like TV, radio and newspapers. With the paradigm shift taking place in non-interactive forms of advertising, the Postal Service has a narrow window of opportunity to convince these legacy advertisers that the Postal Service can provide the addressable, interactive, digital medium they are looking for.
 
The Postal Service is the only medium still capable of delivering mass audiences.
 
When using postal delivery of Internet advertising the only question for advertisers is if 137 million households with 300 million residents is too massive? Fortunately for marketers, postal delivery of Internet advertising can target all postal delivery stops in the USA or just the delivery stops where an Ohio State graduate lives. Marketers might decide on an even more targeted campaign and only want their Internet advertising delivered to the 569 residences in zip code 45039 on R003, along with store coupons and a map to a new location.
 
The point is that there are a lot of direct mailers that don’t know they’re direct mailers. These marketers want to be proactive in their advertising and require the use of a targeted interactive medium. They need to cut through the clutter of on line ads and utilize permission based delivery of rich media, regardless of a customers connection speed.
 
Unfortunately, the Postal Service doesn’t recognize these advertisers as direct mailers either. Upper management missed the memo that their new core competency is the delivery of Internet advertising.


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