Can The Post Office Survive In The Digital Age?

from the doing-okay-so-far dept

Not sure why there are so many stories today about the potential to go “paperless,” but the latest is a story wondering just what’s going to happen to the US Postal Service in this electronic age. While some are worried that the USPS can’t survive, others think there are plenty of opportunities for them. For example, someone in the greeting card business notes that while electronic greeting cards were expected to harm the paper greeting card business, it’s actually helped expand it — because people stay in touch with more people thanks to email, and still feel obligated to send paper cards for certain occasions. Of course, with so much of our snail mail system focused on bills and checks (to pay those bills) a widespread move towards electronic billing and paying could seriously undermine the post office. Some expect the cost of sending letters to start to increase to make up for this — though, assuming a reasonable level of price elasticity (maybe not a reasonable assumption), this only seems likely to decrease usage of the post office. Either way, the article notes some European countries are already privatizing postal operations — though, it doesn’t sound like anyone is suggesting that here. In the meantime, most attempts by the USPS to update themselves for a digital age haven’t worked out too well.

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Comments on “Can The Post Office Survive In The Digital Age?”

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dorpus says:

Powerful Paper Images

Did anyone else notice the powerful picture on the front page of yesterday’s paper edition of the NYT? Since I take the bus to work, I just woke up in the middle of the night thinking about it. I wonder how many other people are having nightmares right now?

(WARNING: traumatizing)

I don’t think the NYT would have made a front page pic like that ten years ago. I wonder if we’re entering an era when print newspapers will use more powerful imagery to sell papers?

RJD says:

USPS re-invention

Okay, first thing they have to do is acknowledge they can’t continue business as usual and concede they are going to need to lay off a lot of current workers (do you see a problem here ? ).

The most obvious thing they could do is become a hotmail or gmail like service with a bit more of a control structure in place to prohit viruses, Spam, etc and charge a small price for it. They would by necessity need to keep part of their current system in place but the couriers, sorters, etc would/should be parred down and programmers brought on.

Won’t be painless but it beats exstinction.

John says:

Yet Another Non-Story

Yet another example of a non-story. People rarely realize just how little mail is from private, non-commercial senders. The majority of all mail is bulk advertising and not only will this not slow down, but the mere fact that folks detest email spam means postal junk mail is safe for a long time to come since it will always remain a legal method for bombarding customers.

Let’s also make note of the market penetration of the internet. Someone once said that a limited number of people have an internet connection, but EVERYONE has a mailbox. Even a 90% penetration still leaves millions of unconnected home.

Sure, SOME markets will shift. For example, when was the last time someone updated their web browser by having a CD mailed? On the other hand, you aren’t going to be able to replace the movement of tangible materials. Consider that Ebay has increased postal traffic for the shipment of small items by a tremendous amount.

This non-story reminds me of all those “paperless office” stories we have been bombarded with, off and on, over the years. The USPS is (and as long as they are a legal monopoly always will be) inefficient and mismanaged, but sounding the death knell is wildly premature.

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