Could shrinking the post office help save newspapers?

PLEASE NOTE: My new blogging home is now at the Nieman Journalism Lab. I’ll continue to update this site for the time being with the introductory portion of my posts, but to read the whole thing, you’ll have to head over to the Nieman site!

Surprisingly, there have been no blogospherical reactions (nor any big ripples elsewhere) to the Postmaster General’s ruminations last week before Congress, in which he hinted that perhaps mail delivery would need to be curtailed to five days a week. His thought is not to drop Saturday, but to eliminate a lighter day, like Tuesday, in order to help the Postal Service deal with a growing annual deficit that’s projected to hit $6 billion in the current fiscal year.

The travails of the post office are being blamed in part on reductions in the volume of periodicals (newspapers and magazines) being mailed. Of more relevance here, any cut in postal frequency would have an impact on newspapers that are mailed, especially those that enjoy day-of-publication delivery. This includes many weeklies that rely almost exclusively on postal distribution. Among dailies, few rely heavily on the mail, but nearly all morning papers have some same-day postal delivery arrangements to reach customers in areas their own carriers don’t (or won’t) travel to. The Wall Street Journal once mailed most of their subscriber copies. It now has alternate arrangements (many via local newspaper carriers) in most areas, but still mails some copies. And of course the Christian Science Monitor is mostly mailed, but is going digital-only soon.

First of all, the plan’s chances of getting a Congressional OK to cut delivery frequency may be slim to none (although if a forum at SiLive.com is any indication, customers wouldn’t have a big problem with it: “Good, bills will come 5 days a week instead of six”).

But just as newspapers should be totally reinventing their business (as I’ve been espousing) rather than cutting here and trimming there until there’s nothing left to reinvent, so should the Postal Service be reinventing itself in a fundamental way, rather than changing incrementally. (If Jeff Jarvis can talk about What Google Would Do if it ran an car company, then I can talk about a Googly reinvention of the Post Office.)…

Read the rest of this post at the Nieman Journalism Lab