The traditional newspaper model is clearly broken. This should come as no surprise. The current model supports a news flow like this; we — as in the newspaper — believe something is important to the community, we write 400 to 600 words, try to include a photo and then mail it to your homes, whether you want it or not. It then posts online and is already four days old.
There are several missteps in this model that 350 words simply won't cover. So we'll focus first on the most misaligned; the method in which we distribute our content through the U.S. Postal Service.
The Post Office Act of 1792 provided periodical mailers with reduced rates that are lower than their delivery costs. This set specific standards for what could and would be considered a periodical, which allowed newspapers to mail at reduced rates to readers using a Periodical Mailing Permit. This is the gold standard that is essentially the Blue Ribbon for newspapers, both weeklies, and dailies.
Currently, we mail at a USPS Marketing Mail rate. That's correct, a marketing rate. Again, we choose what's important, print thousands and mail it to everyone, regardless of your interests or preferred methods of news consumption. The cost per piece is a staggering 15.9 cents per household. When you mail over 14,000 a week, you can do the math. It's expensive. This annual expense would easily fund two additional full-time reporters in the market. Imagine the local newspaper actually putting jobs back into the community.
Most newspapers that have a forward-thinking business model, distribute their content using the gold standard of permits. If the permit had a logo, it would be a broad-chested super-strong mouse in a cape, with a USPS uniform underneath.
Once several standards are met and the application has been submitted and paid for the cost of mailing at the periodical mailing permit is reduced to as low as 7.3 cents per piece. This one small change would give your community newspaper of 43 years the foundation to stand another 43 more. But we're going to need your support.
Stay tuned for next week's follow up. In the meantime, please keep reading and enjoying this new modern format.