Since the beginning of the economic recovery in 2009, first class mail is down by -12%, standard mail (discounted bulk mail) down by -18%, and periodicals down a whopping -32%. Is there anyone surprised at this?  Since 2000, per capita first class mail is down about 5 pounds, periodicals down 10 pounds, and standard mail down about 14.5 pounds.

That totals nearly 30 pounds less mail. Note in the chart that there was a big decline of about 9.5 pounds from 2008 to 2009 as the use of the mail was affected by the deepening recession, but most of all by the rising use of smartphones and the effects of the new social media category. These were aided and abetted by the underlying growth of websites, increasing adoption and faster speeds of broadband. The tablet computing category started in Spring 2010 with the introduction of the iPad.

What was the USPS reaction to their decline in sales from economic conditions and new competitors? Raise prices, of course.  Those higher costs had to be balanced by less frequent and lighter mailings to tightly focused audiences, and greater emphasis on data base hygiene. Mailing is a more demanding niche than ever for the printers that specialize in it. Automation is critical, and new high quality ink jet printing technologies, some of which are already in the market with new ones yet to come, may change the costs of print and increase its flexibility in a manner that can make hard copy mail more attractive than it has been in recent years.