IN A time when cost savings and technological improvements have been encouraging publishers of printed products to turn their focus toward the Web, add one more reason to the mix: postal hikes. With one hike earlier this year and the latest proposed hike of 11.4 percent for periodicals and 8.5 percent for standard mail, circulation directors are rethinking their strategies and bracing for financial decisions that could be made by higher-ups.

Evelyn Adenau, circulation director for 115,000-circulation San Francisco, already budgeted for the first raise in U.S. Postal Service (USPS) rates, but admits that she, along with many others, did not see this second proposal coming.

“The post office is always raising the rates,” she says, “so you plug in a certain percentage for the next year, assuming there will be a rate change. This second one is surprising—I think it could ultimately cost them in lost shipping more than they gain in the extra income.”

Driving Web Traffic

Eric Rutter, American Business Media circulation chair and vice president, controlled circulation for Reed Business Information, also expects direct mail efforts to further decrease.

“We had a lot of incentive to go with the Internet beforehand,” he says. “This just makes traditional mail seem like that much more a thing of the past.”

Patrick Hainault, consumer marketing director for Inc. and Fast Company, sees this not just affecting marketing, but the whole publication. “You have a choice to push more online digital editions, and I think you’ll see more small publishers going that route,” he says. “Every time you do the economics, online wins. The post office has done nothing more than just drive that point home.”

Adenau believes those who don’t decrease their print presence may decrease paper quality and trim size. “We actually increased to a 10×12˝ paper size recently and also went with heavier paper,” she says. “We would have liked to have foreseen the postal situation when making that decision. One possibility is following a magazine like Yankee, which now has two out of its 12 issues only available online.”

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    Postal increases are due to decreasing use of their service. Expect more until they are already out of business.

    That’s what technology does to outdated methods.