Postal Service’s End to Saturday Delivery May Hurt Publishers

Postal service is stopping Saturday first-class service in August. What will that do to your magazine delivery?

Last Updated: February 6, 2013 @ 4:25 PM

The U.S.  Postal Service’s announcement that it plans to suspend Saturday delivery of first class mail on Aug. 1 could create problems for newspaper and magazine publishers.

For magazines and community newspapers with editions now delivered Saturday, the Postal Service’s change could force deadline changes or even in some cases abandonment of weekend editions, say magazine and community newspaper officials.

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Mary Berner, the president-CEO of the  Association of Magazine Media, said the group was “taken by surprise” by the announcement. She noted congressional testimony in 2011 that five-day delivery “would require substantial operational changes for some weekly magazines.”

In that testimony Ellen Levine, Hearst Magazine’s editorial director, said, “Consumer magazines are often targeted for delivery just before or on the weekend, when readers have more time to read the magazine.”

Berner's group, which represents major consumer magazines, has offered to support five-day delivery but only in return for a package of postal reforms that potentially could help curb rate increases. 

For bigger dailies, the impact could be both operational and potentially on advertising.

While most major dailies use their own carriers for home delivery, they often use mail delivery for some rural subscribers or regional subscribers not in the daily’s main metro area.

The New York Times said fewer than 1% of its Saturday edition subscribers copies are delivered by mail.

The Wall Street Journal in a statement Wednesday said it had already switched many subscribers to alternative delivery services, but declined to say how many subscribers still get the Journal’s weekend edition through the mail.

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“We have been working hard behind the scenes for some time to determine the best long-term solution for mail delivery subscribers,” said a journal spokeswoman. “A significant number of Saturday deliveries have already been transitioned to carriers other than the U.S. Postal Service.”

For regional dailies, the more significant impact could be on newspapers ability to offer advertisers so-called Total Market Products with inserts and ads that are used to guarantee advertisers that even nonsubscribers will see newspaper ads. The total market products are often mailed.

Paul Boyle, senior VP of public policy for the Newspaper Association of America, said there is concern that the Postal Service’s move could create problems getting the products delivered on Fridays.

“It is probably inevitable that they change their service, but the concern from all mailers is the impact on service as everyone pushes for Friday delivery,” Boyle said.

Community newspaper publishers, represented by the National Newspaper Association, are the most worried.  

Tonda F. Rush, the group’s CEO, said many of its 2,300 members have weekend editions that are delivered on Saturday and many use the U.S. mail.

“We have been concerned about it since 1982,” she said, suggesting that in picking Saturday  as a day to skip, the Postal Service doesn’t understand the substantial impact on community newspaper publishers.

“The impact is significant on small dailies and weeklies,” she said, adding that some of the publishers could have trouble finding presses to print earlier in the week.