How the end of Saturday mail delivery affects publishers, advertisers and readers

Postal Truck

Postal Truck

The elimination of Saturday mail delivery by the United States Postal Service, expected to begin in August (although there’s some dispute about whether the move is legal) doesn’t only mean waiting until Monday for letters to arrive. For newspapers that use the post office for home delivery—primarily weeklies but also dailies that have switched to several days a week and rural papers—the decision to end Saturday mail delivery will force them to shift how they cover the news, how they get that news to readers and how they deliver readers to advertisers. In short, Saturday mail delivery is a big deal to the newspaper world.

While big metro newspapers long ago replaced paperboys with professional delivery services, many rural and non-daily newspapers rely on the postal service to deliver every day but Sunday, says Max Heath, who consults on postal issues for publishers including the Publishing Group of America (American Profile, Relish and Spry magazines) and Landmark Community Newspapers (56 newspapers and seven college sports publications).

Even though the change only affects Saturday mail delivery, it will impact most U.S. newspapers in some way, Heath predicts. Trickling down to the deadlines of technical and content writers.

Medium- to large-circulation dailies will see the least impact because, according to Heath, most metro dailies (i.e. with a local coverage area) with a circulation of 25,000 or over use contract carriers for home delivery. These papers typically only mail a few hundred papers a day to avid subscribers far from home.

“In the 25,000-and-under segment, a shift toward [using the post office] becomes more predominant as circulation declines,” said Heath, noting that there are exceptions such as papers that have wide geographic coverage areas that don’t commit a lot of resources to home delivery and typically piggyback on local newspapers’ carrier services. How big a deal is the Postal Service to the newspaper industry? Heath estimates that 80 percent of non-daily newspapers are predominantly delivered by mail.

Weekly, semi-weekly and six-day-a-week papers are likely to see the largest impact. Of those, the large number of weekly and twice-weekly publications that come out on Saturday will need to either move back to Friday or forward to Monday (since there’s no mail delivery on Sunday, either). For six-day-a-week newspapers, the Saturday issue is often the biggest issue with the most advertising, according to Heath.

 

Advertisers will determine how newspapers respond

Advertisers face a tough decision: Will they get the same bang for the buck and a similar audience by moving their ads to Friday or Monday? Their choice, made community by community, will be one factor driving newspaper publishers to consider dropping a Saturday issue or switching to expensive contract carriers.

“Those dailies with Saturday issues must discern whether their advertisers will live with Friday. Some, like the Cadillac, Mich., daily [Cadillac News] with a Saturday issue and large shopper to non-subscribers, will likely go to home delivery by contract carriers,” said Heath. “The effects will vary from paper to paper, depending on Saturday advertising and whether it can keep the advertisers on another day or will also be forced to consider contract delivery. Some non-dailies with Saturday may have a bigger percentage of advertising on Saturday than, say, a six-day daily with Saturday issue,” said Heath.

Chris Huckle, publisher of the Cadillac News, said in a piece posted on his newspaper’s website that the post office has forgotten about newspapers.

“We know that people not only want their news delivered on the weekends but also their letters, cards, bills, payments and other communication,” wrote Huckle, who declared that his newspaper will continue to publish on Saturdays and find another way to deliver.

“We’re the major mailer by far in our market area. And we do care about our Saturday delivery. If you (upset publishers), they’re going to find other ways to deliver their products,” Huckle told USA Today, explaining that approximately 75 percent of Cadillac News’ postage budget goes toward delivery of the Saturday edition and a supplement on Monday.

Tonda Rush, CEO of the National Newspaper Association, the industry group of community newspapers, said his organization opposes eliminating Saturday delivery.

“A USPS whose focus is on urban delivery of packages and advertising — which is where it seems to be headed — is a USPS that is not fully serving the nation,” said Tonda.

 

Digital, late delivery part of the solution

One possible upshot of the end of Saturday mail delivery will be papers investing more in a digital strategy. For newspapers that publish on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, many of their subscribers receive their papers the following day by mail. For them, the end of Saturday mail delivery could lead to subscription cancellations, especially since 10 federal holidays land on Mondays, said Heath, who explained that this issue is more likely to affect papers in rural areas because for them, contract delivery could be prohibitively expensive.

The in-county cost for a 5 ounce paper delivered by the post office is less than 10 cents per piece, said Heath. Contract delivery ranges from 12 to 15 cents in city areas and 25 to 30 cents in rural areas, or a 20 to 200 percent increase in cost. Why the extra cost? Using private carriers means newspapers have to create driving routes, hire a supervisor, verify delivery, recruit and contract carriers that typically don’t stick around too long, develop a legal contract, and decide whether to provide accident insurance for drivers. Hiring third-party companies to do the job will work for some papers but likely not for rural ones.

 

How an end to Saturday delivery might affect the news itself

The Wise County Messenger in Decatur, Texas, is a Wednesday/Saturday paper with a circulation of 6,000. It also publishes a supplement called All Around Wise that is both mailed separately (21,845 copies) to non-subscribers and part of the Wednesday edition. All of its printed material are delivered by mail.

Roy Eaton, publisher, is concerned that elimination of Saturday delivery will hurt high school sports coverage—he has eight schools in his coverage area. The Messenger will likely change its publication days to Tuesday/Friday, cramping its ability to deliver the high school sports stories for which parents scoop up papers each weekend.

Eaton says his staff will respond by creating an online page or product covering high school football that will be published on Friday night or early Saturday and will include printable versions of each story and photo for parents to clip out for their scrapbooks.

“It will be a gigantic pain in the butt, but we’re continuing to plan. If something in Washington doesn’t change, we will probably make the switch in late July, early August,” said Eaton.

Photo used via Creative Commons license courtesy of superba.

 

 

Jobs of the Day: Digital Producer APM, Health Reporter Wall St. Journal, Video Producer in Kenya

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From Wall Street to the streets of Kenya, today’s job posts go global. We have digital media jobs for American Public Media, as well as health and financial reporting gigs in the Big Apple. For those of you who want to break into foreign reporting, there are several openings at the Nation Media Group in Kenya. Ready for your adventure? This is it.

Here are Ebyline’s Jobs of the day:

Health Reporter – Wall Street Journal

The New York Health & Science group is looking for an experienced news hound to join its corporate reporting team, helping cover the pharmaceutical and medical-device industries. These industries are facing enormous challenges, including looming patent expirations, the need to find growth amid a tough regulatory environment, and increasing pressures to reduce health-care costs while better serving patient needs. The ideal candidate will have a proven ability to get inside companies and break news, and the vision to see events in a larger context and write compelling, enterprising stories that keep us ahead of the curve. The job also requires the ability to translate complex medical and scientific subjects for the lay reader. Prior experience with medicine and science isn’t required, but a fascination with the subject and willingness to learn is essential. Interested parties should contact Stefanie Ilgenfritz, Health & Science bureau chief.

Staff Writer – Daily Comet
Seeking staff writer to cover cops, fire, courts and related topics in Lafourche Parish, La.

We’re looking for someone with enterprise and talent to write both breaking news and in-depth stories. Qualified job applicants will have a strong hard-news background and the ability to dig for hard-hitting stories, root out corruption and other problems and write about solutions.

You must possess the ability to think critically and take on the tough stories while maintaining professionalism and compassion. A sense of humor is a must, as is the ability to learn how to spell names like Boudreaux and Thibodaux. For this beat, we’re looking for someone able to craft stories, not just on the mechanics of public safety and legal justice, but on the people and communities affected.

Feature writers need not apply.

Associate Digital Producer – American Public Media

The Associate Digital Producer is part of a group of Web producers & designers that serves the marketing, corporate communications & revenue-generating areas of the organization including Underwriting, Commerce, & Membership/Development.
At this point the position is temporary with undetermined end date. The position has flexible hours, usually ranging from 20 – 30 hours a week but occasionally more, especially during the fall & holiday seasons.
- Sets up & tracks email campaigns on external email provider systems
- Compiles emailings from provided materials
- Maintains & updates information on a variety of web sites
- Produces online ads within established guidelines
- Maintains presence in external social networking sites
- Checks work for meeting established HTML standards & browser compatibility requirements.
- Identifies & reports production problems & assists with solutions.
- Create digital assets — images & text
- Compile assets from various sources for digital distribution
- Assist in the production of special features & projects

St. Paul, MN

Financial Services Editor – Dow Jones Newswires

Dow Jones Newswires is seeking an experienced editor to manage a dedicated group of U.S. reporters covering the financial services industry . Candidates should have proven experience in real-time financial journalism, strong writing skills and a keen eye for finding news in the investment banks, commercial banks, insurance, hedge funds and consumer finance industries. Experience managing a dynamic group of journalists and article writers is desirable as is the ability to balance breaking news stories with big-picture thematic pieces. The team writes for Dow Jones Newswires as well as the online and print editions of The Wall Street Journal.

Applicants should attach a resume, cover letter and three to five clips to the application. The position is based in New York City.

Online Video Producer -Nation Media Group (Kenya)

These position falls vacant within the Editorial Department. The candidates should have good understanding of new media, proven writing, editing, and web production abilities and sound knowledge of current affairs. He/She should also be innovative, analytical and adaptable to fast-changing news and technology realities and work under tight deadlines.

Key responsibilities and duties:
-Gatekeeper for video standards for multimedia storytelling on web and mobile.
-Checking and correcting editorial products for facts, accuracy, taste, house- style, language use, clarity and balance to conform to NMG Editorial
Policy;
-Ensure NMG content is properly projected on digital platforms, including SEO.
-Ensuring timely publishing to digital platforms;
-Social media engagement.

Via Journalism Jobs, International Journalists’ Network

Five Tips to Help Freelance Writers Stress Story Value in Pitches

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Resumes and pitch letters have a lot in common. For freelance writers, a well-written pitch letter with a solid story idea yields a writing assignment. And a tight and terse resume that successfully sells a job candidate results in a job interview. The critical common ingredient in both successful pitch letters and resumes is value – the power-packed word that means importance, usefulness, relevance and significance.

Resumes and pitch letters that fail to communicate value within seconds are trashed.

Successful freelance writers who consistently score writing jobs have learned how to persuasively stress the value of the content they’re trying to sell in their pitch letters. Embellished with carefully chosen sentences, practically every phrase drives home the value of the story the writer proposes.

Here are five tips that can help you focus on and stress value in every pitch letter you write:

1. Understand market. Heading the list is knowledge of the market’s demographics.  Before you can think about writing a pitch letter, find  the answers to these questions: Who are the readers (age, sex,  education), and what kind of information do they want? Rather than skim a couple of articles,  read several so that you have a strong feeling for content.  Get a sense of the publication’s editorial mission and philosophy.   If it’s an online magazine or newsletter, the “About” page ought to explain it.  Many mission statements also provide information about  the publication’s readers.

2. Topic relevance. Will the subject immediately draw readers?  Once the market niche is understood,  search for stories that are specific – I stress specific — to this market.  If you find yourself justifying a story’s relevance, abort and find another story. There should be no doubt about a topic’s relevance.  Check to see if topic was covered before.  If it’s a popular topic, there’s a good chance that it was already written about.  But that doesn’t mean your story isn’t viable. The topic could have been covered two years ago; or it may be so broad or complex, there are several angles, all of which are important.  Along with making a strong case for your story, you’ll also score points with your editor. He or she will appreciate the fact that you did your homework.  And if the topic was covered, you’ve positioned the story so that it’s fresh and new.

3. Timeliness. The more timely and relevant the subject matter the better. What with readers’ bombarded with information from countless vehicles,  information must be fresh and offer new insights.   The timeliness of a story can’t be stressed enough, especially if there are several competing publications in the market.  The Internet explosion has created content wars, and virtually every editor is hungry for timely stories.  When I edited newspapers and online news sites, my best writers understood the impact of timely stories.  My freelancers knew that breaking news stories were the best and fastest ways to win immediate points.
4. Benefit. In some way, readers ought to benefit from the information the writer is imparting.  Regardless of the market, story pitches must spotlight the story’s importance for readers.  In how-to, DIY, and self-help publications, online or print, the benefit for readers is particularly important.

5. Advice. Great information is valuable by itself. But the topper is leaving readers with a takeaway – helpful, easy-to-implement advice or tips they can use or adapt.  The advice section, which usually falls at the end of a story, is vitally important because it not only summarizes and ties the story together, but it also tells readers  how to apply  the information and where to learn more.

BONUS: A powerful working head  

Finally, the selling topper – the icing on the proverbial cake – is a strong, provocative head that immediately piques an editor’s interest. More likely than not, the editor will change it (Most editors, including myself, are obsessive about coming up with power-packed heads that instantly snare readers).  Most importantly,  the working head must capture the story’s essence. Coming up with great heads isn’t easy. But they’re worth the effort, because it tells editors that you’ve worked hard to deliver a strong, substantial, and well-conceived story pitch.

Jobs of the Day: NPR Tech Reporter, Wine Journalist, Reuters Bureau Chief, Entertainment Blogger

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Want a new journalism job? Sure you do! We’ve been combing the interwebs today to provide you with new journalism and media opportunities. Today, we have some jobs for techies, entertainment junkies, and lovers of the good life. Whether you’re interested in heading up a news bureau or drinking wine for a living, we’ve got some sweet opportunities on our Jobs of the Day:

Reuters, Bureau Chief, U.S. Southeast & Caribbean – Miami
Reuters is looking for a superb writer and manager to run the Southeastern United States and Caribbean, one of the busiest regions in the world for general news stories that are of importance to clients across the asset classes. From covering hurricanes and earthquakes to space missions, Koran-burning pastors and international fraudsters, the southeast U.S. and Caribbean beat offers one of the most varied and busy files in Reuters Americas, including fast-breaking spot news and opportunities for “deep-dive” investigative stories. In “Sunshine State” Florida, huge wealth, high finance and financial fraud often go hand in hand and in recent years the territory has loomed large in some of the world’s biggest and most notorious fraud scandals — Bernard Madoff’s victims included many of his Palm Beach neighbors, while Texas billionaire Allen Stanford is accused of using Florida and the Caribbean island of Antigua as hubs for the $7 billion Ponzi scheme he was charged with operating. Florida is also a key political swing state in what is already shaping up to be a hard-fought 2012 U.S. presidential election. Miami’s varied file includes covering political developments and natural disasters in a string of Caribbean states from Cuba and to Trinidad and Haiti’s 2010 earthquake was Reuters Story of the Year. The bureau oversees the file from Cuba where the cautious reforms and advancing age of the leaders of the Cuban Revolution is setting up one of the most fascinating international political stories in decades.

 

Reporter/Correspondent, Business-National Desk

The National Desk is seeking a Reporter/Correspondent to cover technology from Silicon Valley. This is a high profile business reporting position that will focus on information technology, innovation and the Internet. The successful candidate will cover globally influential companies based in Silicon Valley and will report on the myriad ways technology affects the US economy and its citizens. The successful candidate will develop sources inside and outside of the industry and is expected to produce stories as well about privacy, social media, venture capital and cyber-security. A thorough knowledge of technology and high level reporting and storytelling skills are essential. Radio experience and a proven track record in covering technology are strongly preferred. The selected candidate will report on air for NPR shows and newscast segments, and online for NPR.org.

Wine Industry Journalist

Wines & Vines, a leading wine industry magazine based in San Rafael, Calif., seeks an experienced journalist and technical writer to fill a full-time staff writer position in our office. We need a self-starting, team-playing reporter who knows and loves the wine industry, to write business news, product news, lead our social media writing efforts, and most importantly research and write in-depth technical articles on winery and vineyard equipment and processes. For monthly print magazine, daily news website and digital editions.

The ideal candidate has a bachelor’s degree or more, at least five years of journalism experience, and a scientific/engineering bent as well as excellent writing skills. He or she has also spent enough time in vineyards, wineries or industry supplier companies to understand our target readers, who work in grape and wine production. The winning candidate enjoys learning more about winery technology, enology and viticulture.(via writerjobs)

Entertainment News Writer

A multimedia entertainment news website, Hollywire.com is seeking a dedicated, pop culture savvy writer to join our team!

Qualifications:
• Journalism Degree or background
• Knowledgeable of AP Style guidelines
• Proficient in spelling, grammar, and punctuation

Ideal Candidate:
• Previous writing experience
• Dedicated
• Must be a team player
• Must be willing to drive in the LA area to attend red carpet events to take pictures and collect sound bytes for editorial content
• Must be in-the-know about Young Hollywood and all aspects of the entertainment industry

Prolific Freelancer Thursday Bram on Pricing Infoproducts, Working with Subcontractors

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Freelance writer Thursday Bram has contributed to websites including CNET, GigaOM, and Lifehack. She’s also created a variety of information products like ebooks and online classes and recently launched an online membership site at EnhancedFreelance.

Ebyline chatted with Thursday about media trends and new opportunities for writers.

Ebyline: What are some of the limitations of the traditional hourly or per project freelance model where you’re working with clients? How can freelancers bust out of that model?

Thursday:
The biggest limitation, especially to charging hourly, is that every freelance writer has only 24 hours in every day — and if we try to work all of them, it tends to end poorly. At the very least, a lack of sleep makes for less than excellent work. There are certainly other limitations, as well, but that’s the limitation that I’ve run up against the most often. It means that the amount of money that can be made by someone that purely freelances is limited.

Breaking out of that hourly model is crucial. Charging per project is an important first step, because it means that you’ve got room to start exploring if there are time intensive parts of the work you do can be outsourced. I have a virtual assistant who can handle repetitive tasks, like tracking down email addresses for potential sources, freeing me up to do more actual writing. From there, it’s a question of what additional income sources you can think of that fit well with your specialties. That might mean subcontracting out work, creating ebooks or something entirely different.

When and why did you decide to start working with subcontractors? 

I’ve actually been working with one of army subcontractors for well over a year now. What sparked the idea to bring her on was a client who wanted me on a project where the budget was too low for me to actually take on. But I knew a writer who could handle the work with some editing and charged a rate that would allow me to get the posts written and still budget a little of my time for the necessary editing. It felt like a win all around.

Nowadays a lot of writers monetize their content by selling infoproducts but prices for those products are all over the map. What are your thoughts on pricing infoproducts?

Pricing can be tough, just because one group of buyers might be willing to pay a lot more than others. The first thing that I look at when I’m creating a new product is how much time I’m going to put into it. That’s in contrast to what some people will tell you (“look at the audience size” is pretty common advice). I want to know what I need to make for a project to make financial sense for me. From there, I’ll make a table of how many copies I need to sell at which price points for a total. Then I’ll run down the numbers to see what I think is realistic  There’s a bit of gut instinct at play, but you can usually get a good feel based on your research.

One of the dangers with infoproducts and content marketing is that you share too much and give away the farm for free or you don’t share enough and readers wonder if the product is all hype. Any thoughts on finding the right balance?

I’m happy to give away plenty of information in general. I blog all over the place and have given away plenty of free ebooks and the like. But I don’t generally do a lot of free information in connection with a specific product. I think that having built up my expertise is enough.

Another reason that I’m not scared to be forthcoming with free information is because much of what I write about (and sell in product form) is not some secret great truth. I learned most of it for free, by trial and error, reading everything in sight and bothering people who know more. What I’m really offering in a product is organization and guidance through all that information. And most people really do find that worth paying for.

I’ve seen a few other freelancer writers create membership communities as you’ve done. Do you think these communities are the new ebook or blog? Or is there another emerging trend you’re noticing?

I actually see live events being one of the big trends coming up. There have always been tons of forums and membership sites for freelancers (think about all those sites that offer guidelines for publications behind pay walls). I definitely can tell that there’s a lot of differences between the membership sites that have been started in the past few months. Mine really focuses on building up a business as a whole — marketing, additional income sources and the like. I’ve seen one that’s much more of a mentorship program and another that’s more geared towards honing writing abilities.

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