Thursday, February 21, 2019

Enjoy a Day of Golf and a Texas Sunset at Falconhead Golf Club

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Sunset golf at Falconhead
Austin, Texas, is one of the United States’ most-visited cities.

The city itself has an eclectic feel and is thriving in a wealth of growth and new businesses.

For this reason, people frequently visit Austin for work-related travel or to visit friends and family.

While there is a lot to do and see while in Austin, the city has recently become noted as a thriving golf community. There are typically many local golf tournaments that go on throughout the year. Many high-ranking golfers, as well as local pros, play in these tournaments.

One of the most noted courses for local golf tournaments is Falconhead Golf Club, which is a top golf course in the Central Texas region. People come from all across the area and beyond to enjoy a great day of golf and watch some of the region’s top players compete.

Falconhead Golf Club has set itself apart from other golf courses with its pristine grounds and wealth of amenities. The course itself was designed by the PGA design team that designs the actual PGA golf courses. Built in 2003, the grounds are set above the norm due to the precision work that went into their design and the building of the course. It is dotted with a variety of creeks and ponds. The maintenance staff at Falconhead Golf Club does precision work to ensure that the golf course has the look, feel, and quality of a PGA course.

It is because of this superior course that many local golf tournaments are attracted to play on the grounds. Typically, there are multiple local golf tournaments held each week. It is an excellent place to stop in and enjoy a warm, sunny Texas day while watching a great game of golf. Aside from the course itself, the scenery is absolutely stunning. The ponds are sparkling and narrow creeks wind throughout the lush landscape. Texas’s rolling hills are peppered with tall trees, and people who attend these tournaments are typically treated to warm, sunny Texas weather.

In addition to the course itself, there is a wonderful on-site bar and grill. Talon’s is a place where you can kick back and enjoy a delicious meal prepared by a staff that has been honored time and time again for the quality of the food served, and the above-average service provided by the team members. In addition to typical golf fare, the bar and grill ensures that the menu provides a strong range of salads and low-calorie options designed to cater to those looking for healthier options. Items such as gluten-free dishes are also available at Talon’s. The restaurant even serves up breakfast tacos, which are one of the items that have earned Talon’s its sterling reputation.

If you are in the area and are a fan of local golf tournaments, Falconhead Golf Club is the perfect place to visit. One of the best things about spending a day at the course is finishing the day watching a gorgeous sunset. You can find the list of local golf tournaments on the club’s website.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

4 Print-Centric Assumptions Publishers Should Avoid Online

By D. Eadward Tree, Chief Arborist of Dead Tree Edition

My latest article for Publishing Executive looks at some ways digital publishers are often governed by assumptions that are true in the print world but don't make sense on the web.

For example, digital publishers are able to see that some content and some readers are many times more valuable to them than others. And yet so many -- digital-native ones as well as those with a print legacy -- mindlessly focus their efforts on increasing the number of unique visitors.

That's a nearly useless measure of volume, not value, that causes them to chase after "viral" hits rather than building a sustainable enterprise.

Something not mentioned in the article is an old print-magazine trick that the digital geniuses haven't figured out how to copy yet -- getting subscribers to renew when they have two years left on a three-year subscription. That's what my friends in the Circulation Department call "cash flow management."

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

5 Things Publishers Should Do Before Erecting a Paywall

By D. Eadward Tree, Chief Arborist of Dead Tree Edition

This is the year, the pundits tell us, when digital publishing will pivot to paywalls. Good luck with that.

Getting people to pay for online content is already hard enough. With more publishers in the game, it will become even harder. How many digital subscriptions do you think people will pay for?

Tread carefully, or you may become like the newspaper Newsday, which spent $4 million redesigning its site to support a paywall and then in the first three months signed up only 35 subscribers. To avoid that kind of disaster, here are five paths to pursue before putting all your content behind a paywall:

Thursday, January 24, 2019

USPS Proposal Could Spread Pain to Catalogs

Comail is working. But in Postal Land, no good deed goes unpunished.

Like lashing two water-tight boats to a sinking vessel.
The good news — for mailers, printers, and the U.S. Postal Service — is that flat Standard Mail is being sorted far more efficiently than it was just two years ago. 

The bad news is that the trend is prompting postal officials to consider a proposal that would almost certainly lead to higher-than-normal rate increases for efficiently mailed catalogs and other Standard flat mail.

Some postal experts fear the proposal would lead to reduced incentives for co-mailing, which even postal officials admit is the main reason that highly efficient – and profitable – “High Density Flats” volume has grown by 45% in the past two years.

More bad news: Postal officials can’t explain -- and don’t seem to be trying very hard to understand — why the Postal Service’s costs of handling most types of Standard flat mail have skyrocketed in the past year. That trend also threatens to cause higher rate increases even for efficient mailers.

Although the Postal Service is supposed to act like a business, this is a case of it operating like a bureaucracy where CYA trumps ROI.

Hall of mirrors

Let me walk you through the strange hall of mirrors where postal officials are ready to shoot themselves in the foot rather than celebrating, and building on, a successful tactic.


The Postal Regulatory Commission and legal challenges have pressured the Postal Service for years to do something about what is essentially a subsidy for the least-efficient flat Standard mail – the mail that does not meet the 10-piece minimum to create a carrier-route bundle. (Note: The USPS refers to such mail by the misleading moniker “Flats,” but for the sake of clarity Dead Tree Edition calls it “Non-Carrier-Route Flats.”)

The USPS has responded by imposing slightly higher rate increases for such mail than for most other Standard classifications. In Fiscal Year 2018, for example, revenue per piece rose less than 1% for the Standard class as a whole but was up 5.1% for Non-Carrier-Route Flats mail. But the cost per piece rose 13.4%, putting the category further into the red, with revenue covering only 68.65% of costs.

Got no explanation

In a recent report, postal officials speculated that, because of economies of scale, a 17.5% drop in volume for Non-Carrier-Route Flats during FY2018 caused the category’s costs to spike. (See pages 17-18 of this PDF.) But that simplistic theory doesn’t explain why the cost per piece for Standard Carrier-Route Flats rose even more, to 15.2%, when volume for that category dropped only 1.4%.

(Don't blame postal workers: The agency's average cost per labor hour has recently been increasing less than 4% annually.)

These unexplained cost increases have caused the cost coverage for Carrier-Route Flats to decline from 137.53% to 108.49% in just two years. Postal officials have not explained that dramatic trend, which could soon turn what was a highly profitable category for the USPS into a money loser.

“Based on feedback from industry representatives, which is supported by volume trends, flats volume has migrated from the Flats and Carrier Route products into High Density Flats because of comailing,” the USPS report said.

True. Better incentives have encouraged more comailing, a process that sorts a variety of mail pieces -- mostly catalogs and magazines -- into a single mailstream to take advantage of postal discounts. The work is typically done by printers, which are rewarded with a share of their customers' resulting postal savings.

High Density Flats are like Carrier-Route Flats on steroids, with a minimum of 125 pieces per carrier route. Achieving a significant proportion of such mega-bundles typically requires a mailing list – or a comailing run – with at least several million addresses.

It's working. Now let's screw it up.

The rapid growth of High Density Flats is good news for the Postal Service because of the category’s 131.20% cost coverage. That’s the kind of trend rate incentives are supposed to produce.

But postal officials are focusing on the phantom “problem” that the move to High Density Flats is allegedly causing: the reduced efficiency of Non-Carrier-Route Flats. The “solution” they are considering, they revealed recently, is to combine Non-Carrier-Route Flats, Carrier-Route Flats, and High Density Flats into a single category known as Non-Saturation Flats. (See pages 20-22 of this PDF.)

“In a way, the USPS is suggesting that if it lashes two water-tight boats to a sinking vessel it will save the sinking ship,” the Mailers Hub newsletter quipped this week.

No longer would postal officials be pressured to get Non-Carrier-Route Flats “above water,” which would require either massive (and, in some circles, unpopular) rate increases or massive cost reductions. This poorly sorted mail would become part of a larger category with more palatable cost coverage of 88%.

But two profitable categories – High Density Flats and Carrier-Route Flats – would also join that slightly unprofitable new category. Based on the Postal Service’s history, we know what will come next: Postal officials will spread the pain around, jacking up prices across the category, even on the types of mail that would be considered highly profitable if not for this bureaucratic finagling.

(That already happens in the Periodicals class, where efficient and inefficient mail are in a single category in which efficiently mailed publications subsidize the inefficient ones.)

Increasing the price spread between efficient and inefficient mail has prodded more mailers to participate in comail and more investment by printers in enhancing the process. By the same token, freezing or shrinking the price spread by having efficient mail subsidize inefficient will curb the favorable trend.

Iceberg off the starboard bow

What really galls the postal experts I’ve spoken with recently is that the Non-Saturation Flats proposal looks like an attempt to paper over some very real problems – what one postal expert called “re-arranging the chairs on the Titanic deck” -- instead of understanding and addressing them.

Postal officials don’t understand the cost trends with flat Standard mail, don’t know whether their various efforts to improve the handling of flat mail are working, and can’t even say when they will know.

Their explanation of the cost increases for Non-Carrier-Route Flats are simplistic and probably off base. (Note to the USPS: Here’s a hint in your own data: The proportion of Non-Carrier-Route Flats dropshipped to the SCF level has declined from 64.1% to 51.7% in just two years. If you actually dig into the category’s data, I’ll bet you’ll find much less relatively inexpensive mail, such as dropshipped 5-digit bundles, and a higher proportion of poorly sorted, non-dropship mail.)

Postal officials’ explanation of the even larger cost spike for Carrier-Route Flats is non-existent. Here’s why: A big culprit is probably the money-eating Flats Sequencing System, but postal officials won’t admit that or even discuss trying to unwind the FSS fiasco. Doing so would force them to shoulder the blame for rushing into the multi-billion-dollar investment before it was proven to be workable. The unofficial motto at L’Enfant Plaza is “Never recalibrate, just obfuscate.”

(Another note to postal officials: I dare you to publish a clear analysis showing the cost-per-piece of handling and delivering FSS mail – including the stuff the machines aren’t able to sort – with the costs of carrier-route and 5-digit-bundle mail. No, I take that back. I double-dare you.)

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