The volume of first class mail dropped 7% in 2010, but advertising mail increased 3%, infusing the U.S. Postal Service with some much needed cash. Now the USPS is running an ad campaign of its own to encourage more businesses to reach consumers by direct mail. According to the Direct Marketing Association, 1.4% of households respond to a mailed advertisement compared with 0.62% that respond to an online ad.
Junk Mail a Treasure for U.S. Postal Service
LESTER HOLT, anchor:
Back now with a real sign of the times. Deep in debt and facing hundreds of thousands of layoffs, it's no secret the US Postal Service is desperate to stay afloat in this increasingly digital world. Last year postal workers moved 82 billion pieces of junk mail through the system, and in dire need of new revenue the Postal Service is hoping to slip even more of those catalogs into your mailbox. Here's NBC's Tom Costello.
TOM COSTELLO reporting:
It's one of those rituals of daily life that people either love or hate.
Unidentified Woman #1: Junk mail has to go. The purpose of getting the P.O. box was to eliminate all of it.
Unidentified Man: I don't like it. It goes from the mailbox to the trash or to the recycling bin.
COSTELLO: The first thing you need to know about junk mail is that it's not junk to the Postal Service. It's serious money at a time when the USPS is running an $8 1/2 billion shortfall. While the volume of first-class mail, everything from personal letters to bills, dropped 7 percent last year and a whopping 26 percent over the last four years, advertising mail increased 3 percent last year, now making up nearly half of all mail. And the Postal Service is running a series of TV ads urging businesses to send even more, with the reminder that mail rarely gets hacked. So why, in a digital age, are advertisers even turning to the mail? Because it turns out a catalog is a lot harder to delete than an email, and chances are you'll sit at home and flip through it.
PATRICK DONAHOE (Postmaster General): The critical thing for us is to do two things: generate new revenues through direct and advertising mail and have a big share of that package market that follows up when you buy something online.
COSTELLO: While only 1.4 percent of households buy after receiving a mailed ad, even fewer, about half a percent, buy after getting an email ad. Now, that's hard to ignore as a financially strapped Postal Service, desperate for revenue, prepares to cut Saturday delivery and 220,000 jobs.
MEGAN BRENNAN (United States Postal Service): Now, the sobering reality is that first-class mail volume lost will not return.
COSTELLO: Expected to drop another 50 percent over the next 10 years.
Unidentified Woman #2: I don't really have any mail that comes to my house. It's all online.
Math & Statistics Activities:
How many pieces of "junk" advertising mail moved through the USPS per day in 2010?
How many pieces of junk and first-class mail in total moved through the USPS in 2010?
If the USPS had found $3.2 billion in new revenue in 2010, what would its shortfall have been?
If an ad is mailed to 400,000 people, how many people would be expected to buy the advertised item?
If the ad is e-mailed to 400,000 people, how many would be expected to buy the advertised item?
What was the percentage difference between the volume of first-class mail and the volume of advertising mail in 2010?
By 2020, the volume of first-class mail is projected to fall to about how many pieces of mail per year?
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