Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Biggest Stories of 2012, the Year of No

It's been a year of "no" in this little corner of the universe -- no postal reform, no big paper merger, no more listing on the RISI Top 50, no major bankruptcies. There was even a double negative: no No Print Day.

The hot topic this year for Dead Tree Edition readers has been retirement: Nine of the 10 most-read stories dealt with efforts (or lack thereof) to downsize the U.S. Postal Service workforce by getting more employees to quit.

Here's a brief recap of the year's highs and lows:

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.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Employee Buyouts Surpass USPS Projection

At least 23,000 APWU-represented employees have signed up for incentives to leave the U.S. Postal Service, according to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe.

Donahoe provided that number at a "State of the Postal Service" presentation last week to leaders of the Mailers' Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC), according to notes released yesterday by Idealliance, a trade organization of publishers and their suppliers. Postal officials had predicted that 15,000 to 20,000 of the approximately 115,000 eligible employees would take the buyout, which includes $15,000 and for many the chance to take early retirement.

Full-time employees had until yesterday to accept the buyout or to change their minds if they had already signed up. Part-timers' deadline is Jan. 4.

Donahoe also told the MTAC leaders that USPS is urging the lame-duck session of Congress to take action on postal reform and not start over in 2013, according to the Idealliance summary. The key issues are removing the burden of prefunding retiree health benefits and allowing five-day delivery, he said.

Related articles:

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Weeklies' Weakness Pushes Down 3rd Quarter Newsstand Sales

Although the latest statistics on North American newsstand sales look gloomy overall, they also show significant growth for many magazines.

Third-quarter newsstand sales in the U.S. and Canada totaled 874.2 million, down nearly 8% from a year ago, according to MagNet.

“Newsweeklies and especially celebrity titles continue to lead the decline,” the industry consortium reported. But for non-weeklies, MagNet sees signs of “high newsstand consumer demand [for] quality publications that are not providing huge subscription discounts.”

Among major monthly titles experiencing healthy growth were National Geographic (23.8%), Shape (9.5%), and Consumer Reports (7.0%). (Is it just a coincidence that National Geographic and Consumer Reports have also invested heavily in their web sites? Maybe digital and print are not enemies after all.)

Sales for the Top 50 publications, which include most of the celebrity weeklies, were down 8.3%. But the next 50 actually increased their sales 7.4%. Nearly one-third of the Top 100 enjoyed increases, according to MagNet.

Another favorable trend: Less waste. Publishers responded to weakening newsstand sales by distributing 64 million fewer copies than they did a year ago, including a 15.7% reduction for weeklies. But because unit sales did not decline as much as the reduction in draw, the proportion of newsstand copies that were sold increased by nearly 2 percentage points for the weeklies and nearly 1 percentage point for the non-weeklies.

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