Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Celebrating Yes Print Day!

In celebration of Yes Print Day!, which was originally called National No-Print Day, we offer a collection of Dead Tree Edition articles about the print medium. Here's information about what makes print special, how printing stacks up environmentally against electronic communications, and how to make print greener:
And, finally, for some print-related fun: Phone-Sex Service Gets Boost from Lands' End, International Paper. As of earlier today, eHow and Green City Times were among the web sites still touting (800) 879-9777 as the number to call for information about how to recycle cardboard.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Without Vision Systems, the Printers Perish

In honor of Oct. 23, which was originally scheduled to be National No-Print Day but turned into Yes Print Day!, Dead Tree Edition offers this update on printing-related technology and what it means for print buyers. (If you’re not familiar with Toshiba’s ill-fated National No-Print Day gimmick, see Toshiba's No-Print Day As Popular As a Turd in the Punchbowl):

Recent developments in postpress technology underscore the importance of looking beyond price when choosing a printer. After all, when an organization buys printing, it isn't just paying to put ink on paper; it's paying to have the right message delivered to the right person on time.

The recent Graph Expo 2012 printing-industry trade show included an impressive array of machine-vision systems on binders, stitchers, and other finishing equipment, reports Don Piontek for Printing Impressions. In the bindery, “vision systems have become more common over the years ... to verify that the correct signature has been loaded into the feeder by the operator,” he notes.

“On co-mailing machines, cameras will verify that the correct mailing address has been applied to the right publication for that recipient.”

To understand the significance of these advances in cameras, processors, and software, let me relate a couple of war stories:

You're screwed
I worked at a publishing company where an advertiser asked about including a personalized insert in magazine copies going to certain VIP subscribers. So I checked with our printer’s customer service rep whether the printer could ensure that, for example, the insert targeted to Dr. Emily Williams went into the copy addressed to Dr. Emily Williams.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

8 Questions About Newsweek's Future

Google News indicates that more than 1,000 articles were published Thursday about Newsweek magazine abandoning print but continuing as the digital Newsweek Global. Still, many questions remain unanswered, including: 
Recent Newsweek cover -- and a parody
  1. Will some of the millions of dollars no longer being forked over to the U.S. Postal Service, paper mills, and printers be reinvested in more and better content? 
  2. Will Newsweek Global’s covers still inspire hilarious parodies? Or will lack of visibility at airports, grocery stores, and dentists’ offices mean its covers will no longer matter, regardless how hard Tina Brown tries?
  3. What will happen to current subscribers who don’t have internet or computer access or just don’t want a digital publication? Will they get their money back? 
  4. How will advertisers respond to Newsweek Global and its lack of ratebase (guaranteed minimum circulation)? 
  5. What does this mean for TIME magazine? Will it benefit from its archrival’s loss of visibility, or will it get sucked down the same toilet? 
  6. Will Newsweek Global be only a digital magazine – for example, with numbered pages and a regular publication schedule? Or will some subscribers view its content on an unpaginated, paywall-protected web site that is continuously updated? 
  7. Is Newsweek truly abandoning print, or will it become a zombie on newsstands like Life and U.S. News & World Report, living on in “bookazines” (special issues)? 
  8. Will Newsweek Global survive? 
Added thought: It turns out the Mayans weren't quite right: 2012 isn't the end of Time, it's the end of Newsweek.
Related articles:

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Confusion, Misinformation Could Hinder USPS's Early-Retirement Push

Confusion reigns among the 115,000 postal workers who received notices in the past few days about a buyout offer. The confusion could limit the number of APWU-represented career employees who accept the U.S. Postal Service’s $15,000 incentive to retire or quit.

”The Postal Service's voluntary early retirement annuity estimates are as bad as before,” says Don Cheney, a long-time critic of the U.S. Postal Service’s communications with its employees regarding retirement benefits.

As usual, the errors tend to understate what employees’ benefits will be upon retirement, says Cheney, an APWU member who for the last nine years has been advising postal workers and writing about errors in retirement estimates the U.S. Postal Service provides its employees.

(See How Does the Postal Service Discourage Early Retirement? Let Me Count the Ways, Why Does USPS Make Retiring Difficult When It Has So Many Excess Employees?, and The Postal Service's Early-Retirement Snafu for more on how the Postal Service’s poor communications have undercut its previous efforts to downsize by offering early-retirement incentives.)

“I am receiving numerous inquiries about the retirement incentive,” former APWU president Bill Burrus wrote a few days ago. He urged the union’s current leadership to designate a knowledgeable officer or staff member to help members who have questions about the early-out incentive.

“This is an important time in their lives and they are in need of timely answers to their questions,” Burrus wrote. And they won’t get those answers from the Postal Service. As Cheney notes, USPS offers no retirement counseling to employees taking early retirement until after the decision to retire is irrevocable, which postal unions claim is contrary to federal regulations (not to mention common sense).

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Chances of Postal Reform This Year: Slim and None

The chances for meaningful postal reform this year are slim if neither political party gets a mandate from Congressional elections – and none if one party wins control of both houses.

That’s the consensus of several postal experts who have spoken or written recently about the status of postal legislation.

“If the Republicans get a majority in the Senate and hold their majority in the House, nothing will happen until 2013,” Jim O’Brien, Vice President, Distribution & Postal Affairs for Time Inc., told a mailers' focus group meeting last week. “If the Democrats hold the Senate majority and the Republicans hold the House, MAYBE something could happen in the lame duck session. If the Dems win the House and Senate, nothing will happen until 2013.”

During the post-election lame-duck session, the House is likely to approve postal legislation “that moves closer to the Senate version,” Ken Garner and Benjamin Cooper predicted a few days ago at the huge GraphExpo trade show for the printing industry. (If you’re wondering why postal issues are being discussed at a printing event, Garner, President/CEO, Mailing & Fulfillment Service Association, and Cooper, a prominent postal lobbyist, offered this factoid,: “Over one half of all print [in the U.S.] is created for mail distribution.”)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Take the Money and Run, Burrus Tells Postal Workers

The U.S. Postal Service's proposal to downsize its workforce with an employee buyout received support Saturday from a long-time adversary.

William Burrus, former president of the agency's largest labor union and long a vocal critic of USPS management, urged fellow APWU members not to hold out for a better offer than the $15,000 incentive announced this week.

"If you intend to retire my advice is to 'take the money and run,' there is zero possibility that the amount will be increased," Burrus wrote in his blog today. "And for those who hope that a similar offer will be made in the future, I suggest that the odds are heavily against another incentive any time soon."

For the Postal Service, the time has never been better to offer clerks, mechanics, drivers and other APWU-represented employees an early-out bonus, the retired labor leader wrote, because "consolidations and service standard changes will make it possible to process a changing mix of mail with fewer employees."

Monday, October 1, 2012

Five-Day Delivery and Reduced USPS Service Standards Could Face Legal Barrier

The U.S. Postal Service’s plans to eliminate Saturday delivery and to lower its delivery standards could face a significant legal obstacle, according to the Postal Regulatory Commission.

In its advisory opinion last week on USPS’s plan to close nearly half of its mail-processing centers, the commission seemed to side with witnesses who said reducing service standards could run afoul of the Congressionally-imposed price cap on postal rates.

“Two expert witnesses . . . presented persuasive testimony that a relationship exists between price and quality, and that lowering quality is equivalent to raising the price,” wrote Chairman Ruth Goldway in an addendum to the PRC’s document.

Under USPS’s Network Rationalization plan, “Eighty percent of all First-Class Mail . . . will be delayed by at least one day,” Goldway wrote. “Much of 2-day mail will become 3-day mail. Rural and remote communities that already receive slower delivery may be impacted even further when weekend and holiday delays are factored in.”