By: Kelvin Childs
The National Newspaper Association asked its members if they were satisfied with the Postal Service’s performance. The answer was a resounding,”No.”
Community newspapers are losing subscribers and incurring significant expenses because of erratic postal delivery, according to a National Newspaper Association member survey. Many respondents also complained that the U.S. Postal Service has not been responsive to persistent and repeated complaints about its performance.
About 800 nondaily (weekly or triweekly) and 240 daily papers in 35 states participated in the survey, conducted by NNA with several state press associations.
Many of NNA’s members send their papers via periodical class mail. The survey found that papers sent in-county are quickly delivered; 86% of dailies arrive within two days, and 98% of nondailies arrive within one to five days.
But out-of-county, 35% of nondaily copies take six or more days to arrive and 9% take 11 or more days; 65% of dailies take three or more days to arrive and 18% take a week. For out-of-state service, 86% of nondaily copies take six or more days to be delivered and 50% take 11 or more days; 67% of dailies take seven or more days and 24% take 10 or more days.
Kenneth B. Allen, NNA’s executive vice president and CEO, stated, “The Postal Service measured the quality of first-class mail delivery, but refuses to measure the delivery of community newspapers. We now know why.” Some 82% of the papers in the survey noted they get complaints from subscribers about poor delivery, and 63% of the papers said they had lost subscribers for that reason.
Respondents also complain that they have acted to meet Postal Service requirements on presorting the mail, but meet with indifference from the agency. They also say subscribers blame them when the papers are late because that is what they hear from the Postal Service.
Paul Vogel, Great Lakes-area operations manager for the Postal Service, said he’s worked on the delivery problems over the past nine months in his role as co-chairman of the Mailers’ Technical Advisory Committee.
“The industry tells me that we’ve done a great job improving service,” he said. The committee is a group of representatives from mailers in all categories that discusses issues and solutions with the Postal Service.
Vogel said he didn’t have information as to whether the delivery problems identified are local, regional or national, and couldn’t speak to how Postal Service representatives have handled complaints.
NNA argues that the quality of service fell significantly when the Postal Service implemented reclassification in 1996.
Since then, periodicals mail is handled at Area Distribution Centers rather than at Sectional Center Facilities.
“The periodicals industry has had some general perceptions that reclassification is to blame for poor delivery,” Vogel said. “There’s no data that really supports that.” He said several changes in technology over the past year or two have helped improve matters.
“I would like to get together with NNA to solve these problems,” Vogel said. “We are committed to providing service to all of our customers, and especially the periodicals customers, who are very important to us.”
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