The U.S. Postal Service appears to be gearing up for an entrance into the magazine retail market, according to meeting notes from the Mailers’ Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) quarterly meetings over the past year. Traditional newsstand sales have been discussed, as well as digital options via USPS.com and mobile devices.
A summary of the group’s most recent November gathering–first mentioned this weekend on the blog Dead Tree Edition–notes: "The USPS is moving forward on a plan to offer magazine subscriptions for sale on USPS.com." And later adds: "The USPS and mailers are developing a plan to have posters in retail sites with QR codes and other ways of linking to magazine subscriptions."
These notes come on the heels of an August meeting where Kelly Sigmon, USPS VP of Channel Access, gave an address entitled "Magazines at USPS Retail" and indicated the Postal Service "is open to a test in 25-50 locations."
The response from publishers seems to be less enthusiastic though.
Slides from a product development presentation given at the meeting available on the MTAC website hint at trepidation, saying: "Implementation and economic challenges limiting interest with Publishers."
Several related parties, including Sigmon, declined interview requests, and, after multiple denials the project existed, a USPS spokesperson admitted the program had not progressed beyond "the idea phase."
Another industry source confirmed that Synapse, a large-scale magazine distributor with ties to major publishers including Hearst, Time, Conde Nast and Meredith, had been involved in the project but was unsure of where it stood at the moment. Synapse also declined comment.
Right now, it seems clear the USPS wants in.
It’s just up to publishers to open the door.