Monday, August 24, 2020

Dead-Tree Editions Are Dying, But Dead Tree Edition Lives

The pandemic has been death for dead-tree-edition periodicals, but other types of print are doing just fine. 

Direct mail, for example, is as relevant as ever, as I explained in an article published last week by Printing Impressions. (Yes, it really is based on a true story.) Marketing mail can do things that other media, whether old or new, simply cannot match. 

The “hoax” that will disappear as soon as warm weather arrives has kept things busy at plants that print books, boxes, and floor graphics as well. Likewise, Dead Tree Edition is undergoing a transformation. Turning over a new leaf, you might say. The seed dies, but from it springs new life. 

My six-year stint writing the monthly View from the Tree column for Publishing Executive has come to an end. Almost simultaneously, PubExec and its rival, Folio:, went silent at the end of June, both victims of their heavy reliance on live events. 

When the two publications went all digital a few years ago, we mourned that there was no longer a magazine that covered the U.S. magazine industry. Now there’s no longer even a web publisher that focuses solely on the U.S. magazine-media industry. 

But Mr. Tree is just fine. I’ll now be writing regularly for Printing Impressions, the leading trade publication for the U.S. printing industry. I’m no stranger to its audience because it has often republished my articles that first appeared in it sibling, PubExec. 

In fact, four years of my PubExec columns have now been re-posted at Printing Impressions. The last one was about the U.S. Postal Service; I have a feeling I'll be writing a few more of those.

Those who are gluttons for punishment can still find the full collection, stretching back to 2011 before the column became a regular gig, at PubExec.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Publisher Whacks Trump's Pecker

The marketing company that owns Us Weekly and other magazines announced late yesterday that it had rid the magazine industry of its biggest embarrassment.

Accelerate is merging with (that is, taking over) scandal-ridden American Media, Inc. and kicking its controversial CEO, David J. Pecker, to an "Executive Advisor" role. ("David, we've got a big wad of money for you if you can manage to stay out of trouble and keep your mouth shut.")

Pecker is infamous for guiding AMI's "catch-and-kill" hush-money payments -- to porn star Stormy Daniels among others -- to block rather than publish potentially damaging articles about his associates, most notably his long-time friend Donald Trump. He was granted immunity by the feds in exchange for cooperating with their investigation.

During most of 2016, Pecker turned the Enquirer into a pro-Trump propaganda organ full of lies about his opponents so outrageous that they would have made Joseph Goebbels blush. It was a far cry from the era when it published significant investigative journalism, including the photo that crashed the 1988 presidential campaign of former Sen. Gary Hart. 

Let's just hope that Pecker's new advisory role at A360 (the merged company's new name) doesn't include providing guidance about journalism ethics or legal matters.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Deputy Postmaster General Calls It Quits

Ron Stroman
Two days after it announced its selection of a new chief executive, the U.S. Postal Service's #2 official submitted his resignation, the USPS revealed today.

"On May 8, 2020, Ronald A. Stroman informed the Chairman of the Board of Governors and the Postmaster General of his intention to resign from the Postal Service effective on June 1, 2020," the agency stated in a report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

On May 6, the USPS's Board of Governors announced that it had unanimously chosen Louis DeJoy, a logistics-industry executive and supporter of President Trump, to become Postmaster General. He is slated to replace retiring PMG Megan Brennan on June 15.

Update: A few hours after this article was published, Brennan issued a letter announcing Stroman's resignation, noting that he is "the highest ranking African American in the history of the Postal Service" and that he spearheaded the service's vote-by mail and sustainability initiatives. (Was she praising him or explaining why the Trump Administration supposedly pushed him out?)

Stroman's resignation means he will no longer serve on the Board of Governors, which consists mostly of political appointees.

DeJoy's selection was announced less than a week after David Williams, a former USPS Inspector General, resigned as vice chairman of the Board of Governors -- reportedly because of Treasury Department meddling in what is supposed to be an apolitical agency. The Mailers Hub News newsletter recently referred to Williams as "one of the most qualified individuals ever to serve on the Board."

Stroman has been Deputy PMG since 2011. His more than 40 years of federal service include previous stints as an attorney and executive with the General Accounting Office, the House of Representatives staff, and the departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Cashing in on USPS Overtime: Why Many Postal Workers Earn More Than Their Bosses

A U.S. Postal Service employee recently received triple the annual pay of fellow mail handlers by working 4,578 hours during a single year.

That’s the equivalent of clocking in for more than 12 ½ hours a day, 365 days a year. Or 11 eight-hours shift per week.

The hard-working mail handler was apparently the USPS’s highest-paid front-line employee during Fiscal Year 2018, earning $181,253, according to an Inspector General’s report released a few days ago.

The typical full-time career mail handler earned $26 an hour and averaged about 8 hours of overtime per week, according to USPS data.

Mr. or Ms. Eager Beaver Mail Handler clearly out-earned the boss: The highest-paid front-line postal supervisor that year earned a paltry $152,489 by working a mere 3,567 hours (averaging 69 hours per week) in Distribution Operations.

“The average pay of supervisors was higher than craft pay,” the report noted. “However, when comparing total pay (including base salary plus overtime), craft employees can earn more than their first-line supervisors.”

The average annual pay for supervisors was $69,631, 27% higher than the average for craft positions, according to the report. (I believe these numbers are base pay without overtime, not total pay, but the report doesn't make that clear.)

But 3,362 craft employees – including almost 1,000 carriers and nearly as many clerks and mail handlers – had total earnings that surpassed $100,000.

A postal expert and former USPS employee tells me that some of these $100,000-plus craft employees probably "involve situations where the employees filed grievances because they were improperly denied overtime opportunities. Unfortunately USPS (in my experience) doesn't provide supervisors and managers with the tools they need to manage OT. The end result is large grievance settlements."

(Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan's base pay that year was $290,565 FY2018. Tsk, tsk, if the Postal Service operated like "a real business," she would have made at least 20 times as much as the highest-paid front-line employees and supervisors.)

One reason craft employees can earn more than their supervisors is that they receive up to two times their normal hourly pay for overtime, “whereas first-line supervisors are paid straight time for hours worked above their normal schedule.”

Noting that postal supervisors have an annual attrition rate of only 1%, the OIG’s report didn’t recommend any changes in how supervisors are compensated.

But I suspect that attrition rate was calculated without including postal workers who switched from supervisor back to craft positions. I know of several people who gave up supervisor positions because they had been earning more as a letter carrier.

Or because the minimal extra pay for being a supervisor wasn’t worth the bureaucratic headaches.

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