Newspaper publishers who move their delivery to the U.S. Postal Service, may not be as clever as they think. The USPS is a troubled enterprise that lost $6.5 billion in its FY 2023.
That doesn’t mean the USPS is incapable of delivering periodical mail. But there are increasing pressures on publishers, especially small ones, as affectingly captured by in a column by Gene Johnson, co-owner of several community papers in the Midwest.
“The delivery of our newspapers is being delayed from two days to a week in some areas,” Johnson wrote. “We see it in our subscriber loss and increase in single copy sales.”
Johnson adds, “We are also living with twice-a-year postage increases, which in turn raises our subscription rates, but more than that the outlook is not encouraging.”
For the record, the USPS reported a 0.4% reduction in revenue to $78.2 billion for FY 2023. And it faced the above loss despite having forecast a breakeven.
“While we are not happy with this result, we cannot lose sight of the downward trajectory the Postal Service faced in the fall of 2020 after years of neglect and willful indifference by its stakeholders and custodians prior, and of the substantial progress we have made in correcting our condition and our trajectory,” Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said in a speech last week.
With this, DeJoy seemed to be targeting Congress. He hyped the postal service’s Delivering for America plan, which was developed during the pandemic.
What good was this? “Along with many other aspirational initiatives, a newly organized leadership team and a newly constituted board of Governors, sought to correct for a projected $160 billion loss over the ensuing ten years,” DeJoy continued. “The remarkable and unfortunate fact was that there was no other plan in sight, even though this condition had existed for almost 15 years.”
Critics may not see DeJoy as the best guardian of this venerable institution. But there was some truth to the above statements.
Meanwhile, Johnson seems to mourn the loss of rural free delivery, an idea suggested by then-Postmaster General John Wanamaker during the term of Benjamin Harrison in 1890 or so and derided as socialist by some. It came into effect after Wanamaker left office.
But Johnson observes, “It’s not a secret that the mail delivery numbers are declining with so much information being transferred electronically. We still have thousands of readers who like to have the paper in their hands and find a convenient time for reading and sharing information with friends and family.”