Money & Business

Magazine Publishers Feel Sting of Post Office Cutbacks

By / Feb 11, 2013

After last week’s announcement that the U.S. Postal Service will cut Saturday mail, associations in the publishing industry are expressing concern that the change could hurt their members’ business models.

Like packages and direct-mail pieces, magazines rely on the U.S. Postal Service to deliver their goods. So how did they take the news that the USPS would be taking Saturdays off starting in August? Not well. More details:

The reaction: Multiple associations spoke out against the changes—with the Magazine Publishers Association reacting strongly. “Like Congress, MPA was taken by surprise by today’s announcement,” the group’s president and CEO, Mary Berner, said in a statement on February 6. “While we have actively participated in conversations around postal reform, and in particular, five-day delivery, we did not expect the USPS would act unilaterally, without congressional approval, and we await Washington’s reaction and more details.” The National Newspaper Association argued that the change could hurt its members, mostly community newspapers, by forcing them to use alternative methods to deliver papers and content to readers on weekends.

Where it could hurt most: The magazines that could face the most trouble from this change are the same ones that are already feeling the hurt from changes in the publishing industry. Weekly magazines like Time are already struggling to adapt to changes in the market; Time, Inc., laid off hundreds of staffers last month. Newsweek has already stopped publishing in print altogether. However, The New Republic, which prints biweekly editions, tells The New York Times that only 10 percent of its subscribers would be affected by the USPS changes.

How to adapt? Without Saturday delivery, some magazines may find their traditional bases fading. A recent USA Today piece points out that magazines such as The Week have built entire business models around showing up in the Saturday mail. “We designed the magazine to be a weekend read, to engage readers more in commentary and thoughts rather than pure news,” the magazine’s president, Steven Kotok, told the newspaper. “I’m not holding out a lot of hope that the Postal Service will change [its mind]. But we may very well go earlier to keep the lean-back experience for [our readers], which I think is important.” The change could force magazines to push more of their content online or revise business models significantly.

Many associations use their magazines as major communication channels to members. Do you see changes for your association’s magazine as a result of the USPS announcement? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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