• on Dec 31st, 2012 in OIG | 4 comments
    The Postal Service faced its own fiscal cliff in 2012 while the larger mailing industry continued to press for reform and innovation. But don’t count mail out just yet. A strong election season reminded many Americans that mail still matters, even in the digital age. And in Europe, one postal operator didn’t let 500 years of history stand in the way of reinventing itself. Looking over the headlines, the staff at the Office of Inspector General has pulled together the list below of the top 10 postal stories for 2012. After you read them, vote for your top story of the year, or let us know if we missed one. 10. Pitfalls of Sponsorship – The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency strips cycling legend Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles after accusing him of illegal doping while on the U.S. Postal Service team. 9. Sound as a Pound – Royal Mail positions itself for privatization after ending price controls, shifting its pension liability to the government, and earning a profit. 8. Regulatory Fireworks – The Postal Regulatory Commission approves a controversial and newspaper industry-opposed negotiated service agreement with Valassis and remands a portion of the Postal Service’s annual price increase, saying it ignored previous Commission orders. 7. A Vote for Election Mail – Direct mail still matters in politics. Election mail postage surged over $400 million as parties and politicians used mail to target their messages in contentious national and local elections. 6. Default This Year; Reform Next Year – The Postal Service defaults on two prefunding payments totaling $11.1 billion to the Retiree Health Benefits Fund. Lawmakers ready for a postal reform bill in the new Congress. 5. Terminator 2012: Rise of the Tablets, (Further) Decline of Print – Coincidence or not? Venerable publications, such as Newsweek and the Times Picayune newspaper, abandon or reduce their print editions, while the number of tablet owners doubled in the past year and reached 19 percent of adults. 4. Shrink to Fit – The Postal Service’s 5-year business plan calls for cutting costs by $20 billion through workforce reduction, consolidation of facilities, and elimination of Saturday delivery. In initial action, the Postal Service compromised and reduced hours at rural post offices rather than closing them and pushed back its plan to eliminate overnight delivery of First-Class Mail. 3. Postcards from the Edge – The Postal Service reaches its statutory borrowing limit of $15 billion for the first time ever and warned that it could run out of cash by October 2013, barring any significant action. 2. Brand Damage – Steady stream of bad news keeps the Postal Service in the news and threatens to hurt its brand, which could prove especially harmful as it reinvents its business model for the digital age. 1. Parcels are the New Letters – Same-day delivery trials by eBay and the Postal Service, the growth in parcel lockers, and the efforts of traditional brick-and-mortar powerhouse Wal-Mart to increase its online presence indicate a very bright future for packages.
  • on Nov 5th, 2012 in Products & Services | 9 comments
    As one of the most hotly contested election campaigns in years comes to a close tomorrow, the media is filled with campaign ads. Whether in the morning newspaper, through social media websites, or during commercial breaks on television, we hear constantly about various candidates and ballot referenda. The mailbox is no exception -- direct mail continues to be a widely used political advertising strategy. Recent reports indicate that nearly 2 billion pieces of political mail have been sent this election cycle, and the Postal Service projects it will earn nearly $400 million in revenue from this volume.   If you live in a swing state, such as Colorado, Ohio, or Virginia, your mailbox might have been full of political campaign mail all year long. In these battleground states, no single candidate or party has overwhelming support in securing that state's Electoral College votes.  Political campaign mail is a targeted and cost-effective way for the candidates to get their message to their intended audience. If you live in an area with hotly contested state or local elections, you've probably received a great deal of mail from their respective campaigns as well.  The boost in political mail volumes is a testament to the power of direct mail. More dollars may be spent on television advertising, but the ability of mail to pinpoint a message to voters at a reasonable price is especially attractive to candidates and the national parties. However, using this method too much can backfire. Voters report that the barrage of mail prompts them to tune out the message altogether. They throw away or recycle the mail without even opening the piece. Did you find the mailings effective? Did they help to inform your views of a candidate or a voter proposition? Or did the increased amount of political mail cause you to tune out the message? What advantages and disadvantages do you see over newspaper, television, or Internet advertising? Let us know what you think.
  • on Jan 26th, 2009 in Products & Services | 4 comments

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    More than 31 million ballots were expected to have been mailed in the recent 2008 election — nearly twice as many as in 2004. Voting by mail has expanded as more states offer “no excuses” absentee ballots or conduct elections through the mail. Oregon has voted by mail since 1998 and has saved 30 percent of its election costs by eliminating polling places.

    To respond to the vote-by-mail movement, the Postal Service developed a national Election Mail program that offers training to help local officials use mail to increase voter turnout. The Postal Service and the Joint Election Officials Liaison Committee designed an Official Election Mail logo, which is available only to election offices. The logo ensures that Official Election Mail is easily identifiable. In the 2007 update of its Strategic Transformation Plan (click for link), the Postal Service also suggested developing new features — such as pricing that includes return postage and tracking using the Intelligent Mail Barcode — to encourage voting by mail.

    Supporters point out that voting by mail can increase voter turnout (between 2 and 10 percent), that voting from home allows more careful consideration of complicated referenda and initiatives, and that voting by mail is an answer to help infirm or handicapped individuals. In Oregon, more than 80 percent of citizens polled said they preferred voting by mail and rated it positively. Detractors, however, raise the possibility of undue influence on voters in private or outright fraud because the remote voting process cannot be monitored. One potential concern for the Postal Service is that it may come under pressure to deliver ballots for free.

    What do you think about voting by mail? How can the Postal Service provide the best service for Election Mail? Please comment below.

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