Sunday, December 9, 2012

Postal Service Plans To Sell Magazine Subscriptions

The U.S. Postal Service, at the urging of publishers, is planning to sell magazine subscriptions on its web site and to promote them at post offices.

“The USPS is moving forward on a plan to offer magazine subscriptions for sale on,” says Idealliance’s summary of the recent Mailers’ Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC), a joint USPS-mailers groups. “Also, the USPS and mailers are developing a plan to have posters in retail sites with QR codes and other ways of linking to magazine subscriptions.”

When the idea originally surfaced at an MTAC meeting early this year, it included selling subscriptions in post office lobbies, as stores including Best Buy do at checkout. But setting up such a program for hundreds or even thousands of publications might not be worth the effort. It will be easier to test the QR-code posters in select locations.

Postal officials’ interest in promoting magazines may seem odd in light of the Postal Service’s claim that the Periodicals class is its most unprofitable type of mail. But that supposed unprofitability is the result of allocations for fixed costs, some questionable cost accounting, and perhaps handling costs that are unique to newspapers and not magazines.

There doesn’t seem to be much question that delivering more magazines would be beneficial for USPS. And magazine subscriptions also lead to additional mail that is more profitable, such as invoices and renewal notices.

Thorny issues
But having the Postal Service sell magazine subscriptions also raises some thorny issues:
  • Will there be complaints that USPS is using its monopoly power to compete unfairly with businesses like subscription agents and Amazon? 
  • Will the subscription offers only be for the ink-on-paper versions of the magazines, or will combined print-and-digital packages be allowed? How about electronic-only subscriptions? 
  • Will publishers have to pay a fee to have their magazines featured on the QR posters? Will the Postal Service get a cut of the subscription revenues? 
  • If a magazine distributes some of its subscriber copies via means other than the mail, will it still be eligible for the program? 
  • What about newspapers that are delivered primarily by mail? They will complain vociferously if they are excluded. 
  • Should people who buy subscriptions via USPS still “expect six to eight weeks for delivery”? 
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Anonymous said...

All kinds of non-profit organizations sell magazines as fundraisers. Since the USPS is one, why is anyone surprised... what was that... non-profit?... I'm sorry... I should have written "no-profit"... nevermind...

Anonymous said...

I don't see what the problem is. Lots of non-profit organizations sell magazines to raise money. What?... sure the USPS is non-profit, just look at their financials... oh... no-profit and non-profit are not the same thing?... oh... ummmm.... nevermind!

Best regards,
Emily Litella :)

Greg Golebiewski said...

We have proposed to help the USPS sell not only subscriptions but any digital content within the Znak it! platform two years ago. The USPS and its consultants said "no way," there is no market for that type of services.

Stanko Yordanov said...

Making subscriptions by post offices is wide spread in many other countries like mine (Bulgaria). But the competitive advantage they have is the great number of offices alover the country. This makes sense only if the preffered method of payment is to visit a retail shop like postal office. So I think it will not be huge business because the payment of subscriptions is done electronicaly in most cases.

Gail Nickel-Kailing said...

So is my letter carrier going to knock on the door and sell me one? There are still people trying to do that.