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Finding the Newspaper in the US Mail
Wednesday, January 5, 2011 • Posted January 5, 2011

It has been a difficult decade for newspapers. Rising costs and falling revenue have provided no breaks for the print media during the last ten years, and newspapers, particularly, have been hard hit.

Many people now get their news online, from various sources on the internet. Sadly, a quick glance at the original source material on most of those online stories reveals that they came from the print media. If the print media disappear, the online news will start to wither and have to find other ways to get its stories.

In the larger cities, newspapers have to compete with radio and television for readers. Many people feel that if they can get "all" the news in a 30-minute newscast, there is probably no reason to spend valuable time reading an entire newspaper. Many people also overlook the fact that a 30-minute newscast can usually cover only 15 to 20 stories, and they devote less than one minute to most of those same topics. A newspaper article on the same topic might take five minutes to fully read; but, the reader will have aspects of the story not covered on the 5:00 o'clock news!

In the case of the big daily papers, delivery is also a problem. Most people have home delivery, and it requires a veritable squadron of folks to package, sort and deliver those same papers. And yet, every morning, there is the paper, in its usual spot, just waiting for the reader.

We have our own set of challenges out here in the country.

We currently print the paper in Killeen. On Tuesday, we finish putting the paper together and convert everything to digital files which are then sent to the press. We've already taken all the inserts over on Monday, as well as the current set of individual labels for the newspapers and sack labels for all those papers headed out of town.

On Tuesday evening, the Killeen Daily Herald prints our paper (as well as San Saba, Llano and Blanco), stuffs them with the appropriate advertising inserts, labels them, bundles them according to our instructions, then loads them on a truck which delivers them to us on Wednesday in the early morning hours.

We finish all of the sorting of the papers early Wednesday morning and start delivering to the convenience stores and to the post office. Everything that goes to the post office has been sorted according to US Postal requirements and standards. Local papers are bundled according to box arrangements and by routes. Out of town papers are bundled by zip code distribution, and further, by distribution center locations.

That's when many of our problems start.

The papers that go out of town all go on to a truck headed to Abilene. Even if a paper is going to Doss or Castell, it has to go to Abilene first. Once the truck arrives, the cart full of our newspapers is sorted and sent on to further processing. Or not!

In the past six months, we have had numerous cancellations of subscribers in counties all over our state that got tired of receiving newspapers that were three weeks old by the time they were delivered. Many subscribers would receive two or three issues all at one time. The subscribers knew that it wasn't our fault; but, no longer felt they were getting their money's worth with such late delivery.

So, every week, I pay the post office $500 - $600 in postage. Our local subscribers almost always have their papers in their boxes by noon on Wednesday, and those on routes can usually rely on the papers being there by Thursday. But, if you live in Llano, you may not get the paper until the following Tuesday. If you live in Brackettville, it may be more than a week. If you are in Alpine, count on two weeks. And, if you are in Colorado, don't hold your breath.

The postal system is broken and no one wants to admit it. More and more people are depending upon the privately owned freight carriers and on electronic communication. The post office, with declining sales, looks at raising rates to cover their losses; but, fails to identify improvements that might make them competitive once more.

I fear I will probably do no more than irritate them when I complain; but, I still file my complaints and try everything I can to help our subscribers get their newspapers in a timely manner. The US Mail is the only cost-appropriate method for us to send our newspapers, and I have hope that solutions will be found to make it a better service. I just hope our subscribers have the patience and the faith to stick with us.

It’s all just my opinion.

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