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Matt Kinsman

FOLIO Poll: Will You Launch a Tablet App This Year?

Matt Kinsman emedia and Technology - 02/28/2011-11:12 AM


Nearly every day, multiple magazines announce they are launching an app for smartphones or tablets. It's not just the big guys either-smaller publishers are launching apps as well.

The question isn't whether magazines on tablets will be huge, but how soon should a publisher embrace the opportunity? Popular Science has been an early adopter from the start, and feels the relatively low numbers in sales (PopSci leads all Bonnier titles-many of which are making an aggressive tablet push of their own-in digital single copy sales, generating 10,000 to 12,000 per month on the iPad) are worth the experience in creating a successful app.

But while some larger publishers can put time and resources toward experimentation, smaller publishers need to see a return right away. According to a recent Nxtbook survey, 47.8 percent of respondents say they are aggressively moving to mobile apps, while 36.3 percent say they plan to but don't feel any rush. Just 3.3 percent say they have no plans at this time to offer apps for tablets or mobile, with budget constraints being the largest obstacle.

We decided to ask a variation of that topic again. Do you plan to launch a tablet app this year or are there other areas that demand your attention first?

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Matt Kinsman

The FOLIO 40: A Call for Nominees

Matt Kinsman Consumer - 02/22/2011-10:41 AM


The FOLIO: edit team has spent the last year, as we always do, intensely examining the magazine publishing industry as well as some of the markets that intersect it. Now, we're working furiously to assemble a list of the 40 most innovative, creative-thinking individuals who have pushed the boundaries of our business in this ever-evolving and multifaceted media landscape.

And we need your help. FOLIO: is looking for nominations in the following categories:

C-Level Visionaries
Director-Level Doers
Industry Influencers
Under the Radar

If you, a colleague, your boss or even a competitor deserves to make this year's list, please fill out the form below and let us know. Keep in mind, of course, that serious nominations require quantifiable stats to back up your pitch. The FOLIO: 40 is the real deal---it's the oldest, most prestigious and comprehensive list of its kind.

The 2011 FOLIO: 40 will be unveiled in April. Submit your nomination(s) now!

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Matt Kinsman

Respect the Freelancer

Matt Kinsman Editorial - 02/03/2011-13:28 PM

Times are tough all over for content producers but especially for freelancers in the magazine industry. It's easy for "traditional brands" to rail against the miserly fees paid out by newcomers like AOL's Patch, but the fact is that as cash-strapped publishers prioritize the bills they pay (pay-roll, printers, rent, etc.) it's also easy to shuffle faceless freelancers to the bottom of the deck.

I received this letter from a veteran freelancer who wants the industry to know that he understands the financial woes out there, but says freelancers still deserve respect (and that includes timely payment). The letter is running in FOLIO:'s February issue but I wanted to offer it up to the audience here.

For freelancers, how do you feel you're being treated? For publishers, how have you had to change your dealings with freelancers?

I have been a full-time freelance business magazine writer since 1976. In the last 35 years, I have seen magazine payment policies shift significantly. Years ago, most magazines paid on acceptance. The remaining paid on publication. Two or three years ago, more and more magazines began shifting to pay on publication. Most recently, many magazines have begun paying 30 days after publication.

This isn't the fault of editors. They feel terrible for me, knowing that this is my full-time source of income, and that cashflow is critical. Publishers, though, seem to be unaware that their freelancers are people, too. Yeah, we're not employees. The publishers don't see us walking down the halls every day. They don't have to make eye contact with us. We are nameless, faceless entities that provide articles on a monthly basis. So, why not string us out as long as they can?

As a professional, I pride myself on meeting deadlines. In fact, of the 10,000 or so articles that I have written over the last one-third century, I can count on one hand the number of times I have missed a deadline. Editors and publishers have a right to expect articles on time. Yet, it seems, a lot of publishers don't feel a similar obligation to pay their writers in a timely manner.

For whatever reason, I have always been able to find enough work to keep me busy. Even during the recession, I always had enough assignments to meet my income needs. As such, I have tended to begin to shy away from magazines that are taking longer and longer to pay, and gravitating towards those that pay in a more timely manner. Yeah, it is a cashflow issue. But, just as importantly, it is also an issue of respect. Editors, writers and publishers are supposed to be working together for the benefit of the readers. So, publishers, don't forget your writers. We actually are human beings, and we do need to put food on the table to feed our families.

William Atkinson
Carterville, IL
w.atkinson@mchsi.com

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Matt Kinsman

So Who Should Control Social Media? Most Say Edit.

Matt Kinsman emedia and Technology - 01/27/2011-12:32 PM

A recent MPA panel debated who should be in control of social media at magazine publishers-edit, sales, marketing or even IT, which may ultimately bear the costs of social media. It's a similar dispute to the way various magazine departments squabbled over prime Web site territory 10 years ago when they realized that yes, this Internet thing does have legs on the business side.

I pulled some of the Facebook responses to FOLIO:'s article about who ultimately should be the gatekeeper of social media, and listed them below. Considering the audience, it's not surprising that most seem to feel edit should be in charge. However, several people noted that social media can't belong to just one group, and should be divvied up across the organization (often out of necessity, given the resources in the current publishing climate).

Social media is integral for most publishers and everybody needs to be onboard (as one MPA panelist said, "Nobody goes around bragging that they don't know Microsoft World"). So what do you think? Does edit rule? Should sales and marketing get their say? Or does social media require its own dedicated crop of specialists?

Facebook Responses:

"To maintain a publication's integrity, I think editorial should take the lead with input from sales + marketing. As a small biz owner + independent publisher, most all departments must have input + play multiple roles for mere survival. But regardless, all need to educate themselves in this area. 'It's not my job' no longer cuts the mustard."

"Edit should manage, with input/collaboration with marketing."

"Mktg function for sure."

"Edit!"

"Edit and design, with input from sales and marketing."

"I think Editorial should play a significant role - if not the lead role - because it's nice when the posts sound professional and include correct spelling and grammar. Of course, this is coming from an editor! Of course everyone plays a vital role, depending on your message. If you're incorporating a graphic, for instance, it starts with your designers."

"Web editors with help from marketing...communication is key!"

"You mean those are different departments?"

"Content marketers. Your silo choices are brick and mortar."

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Matt Kinsman

Publishers Come Out of Bankruptcy Eager To Buy

Matt Kinsman M and A and Finance - 01/20/2011-15:06 PM

Isn't this what got so many publishers in trouble in the first place?

AMI, which just came out of bankruptcy last month, has $50 million in free cash primed for acquisitions, with Maxim at the top of the list, according to WWD.

Penton Media CEO Sharon Rowlands, who brought the b-to-b publisher out of bankruptcy in March 2010, told FOLIO: that last month's acquisition of Nation's Restaurant News could be just the start of several new acquisitions, including print, events, digital and data assets across a variety of markets, particularly deals that help bolster Penton's business in China.

On the one hand, this is could be great news. A vibrant deal market (now that we seem to be moving away from distressed deals as the only game in town) speaks to the gradual recovery of the media industry. Publishers (and executives) emerging from Chapter 11 and crushing debt loads feel like they have a new lease on life and are eager to vindicate their brands with big moves and fast growth and execute on some of that much-needed change everyone always talks about. 

On the other, how much of this is blowhardery from people who haven't learned a hard lesson?

Let's just hope it doesn't spark another round of wheeling and dealing and dangerously unrealistic covenants if publishers start seeking private equity financing again (although who knows if it will be available-a recent report from media banker AdMedia Partners said just 48 percent of financial buyers are interested in b-to-media and even less--38 percent--are interested in traditional consumer media). Those feelings may be mutual--just 33 percent of content companies said they're looking for investment funding, according to AdMedia.

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Matt Kinsman

Want a Successful iPad App? Impress the Reader, Not Yourself

Matt Kinsman emedia and Technology - 01/12/2011-12:33 PM

The Atlantic is going back to the drawing board on its idea for a premium iPad App (dubbed The Atlantic Premium). The original concept would have offered a daily bundle of its online content for a monthly fee (The Atlantic sells single issues on the iPad for $4.99). However, publisher Jay Lauf tells paidContent that "We felt that we missed that first wave of iPad magazine releases and we wanted to do something a little different, a little more special."

As of now The Atlantic isn't sharing any details but they aren't the only ones rethinking their approach. With the flood of magazine apps hitting the market and many titles seeing downloads drop after the initial splash, publishers are looking at ways of standing out both to readers and advertisers. iPad-only editions are gaining traction, such as Bonnier's launch of Parenting Seasons but user experience (quick downloads, easy navigation) remains the key. As publishers we can thump our chest about Apple's strong-arm tactics and the lack of a workable digital newsstand, but the fact is long downloads and an emphasis on the one-time "wow-factor" (as well as treating the iPad like a closed environment, similar to a print magazine) rather than giving readers reasons to come back are even more dangerous.

Wired blazed the trail for magazines on the iPad but also received some knocks for excessive download times as well as a "compromised reader experience" due to an over-reliance on multimedia (it's a trap many new magazine apps continue to fall into--Project, Virgin Media's iPad magazine, debuted in November with frustratingly long download times and the second issue--out now--was delayed six weeks as the team worked out the bugs).

Wired spent the better part of last year working with Adobe to drive its iPad navigation model. "The convention of magazine reading is a single axis experience-flipping pages right and left along the X axis," former creative director-turned-Conde Nast executive director of digital development Scott Dadich told FOLIO: last fall. "We felt like it was time to expand that navigation model and embrace the digital conventions we're used to on the phone where reading is more of a scrolling or vertical experience."

The magazine mixed those models into a dual navigation system. Users swipe right and left to change an article and swipe vertically to read it. "That navigation model really drives the overall content experience," Dadich says. "Once you drill down to the content layer you need to be careful about a call-to-action."

For Wired, that includes calls-to-action in point size or design display that's a little smaller than a headline but clearly and instantaneously messages to the reader what they're supposed to do, such as "Tap the number to read the writeup," or "Touch image to learn more." "Finger friendly" directional arrows and blinking buttons also serve as calls-to-action.

Nobody is saying just dump the magazine onto a tablet. The appeal of the iPad obviously is to offer a much richer experience than print. Consumers WANT this--a survey from Harrison Group, digital magazine provider Zinio and mobile device display manufacturer Qualcomm--says owners of tablets and other e-readers spend 50 percent more time reading magazines than those who don't own such devices. But as these devices go mainstream, so do end-user tastes. This is just as new to many readers as it is to us, and early frustrations are often not forgiven. 

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Matt Kinsman

Two Choices For Future Editors—Be a Cyborg or a Robot

Matt Kinsman Editorial - 01/04/2011-12:49 PM

All Things Digital's Peter Kafka has an interesting video interview with Tony Haile, founder of Chartbeat, a real-time Web analytics firm that just introduced Newsbeat, which Haile touts as the "first publisher-focused analytics service."

Rather than focus on driving overall SEO for an entire site, Newsbeat offers individual editors the ability to see how their stories are performing and make tweaks to headlines or links to boost performance (most smaller publishers we're aware of already offer editors access to Google Analytics but at larger sites things get a little more tiered).

During the interview Kafka makes an interesting point about what the daily role of the online writer should be, asking "Shouldn't your main job be producing content" rather than obsessing over back-end analytics?

Haile responds by saying that the industry is moving away from the "fire and forget" model of posting something and just hoping for the best, and that editors in the future will be either "cyborgs" or "robots," which he defines as cyborgs being "people who are enhanced by technology" and robots as "people who are replaced by technology."

Smart publishers have already abandoned the "fire and forget" model. Questex Media defines areas where certain editors excel and tries to extend those lessons to other editors, even categorizing roles such as "Acquisition Expert," "Optimization Editor," and "Retention Writer."

There is an increasing drumbeat (and not just at content farms either) to evaluate and pay editors not by the quantity of stories they generate but by the traffic and response they produce. I firmly believe that link sharing and riffing off other people's stories (uh, sort of like I'm doing here) will never equal the response generated by original enterprise reporting, at least for independent publishers. If your future reviews are going to be analytics-based, it's past time for every editor to understand what producing Web content really means, and take advantage of every tool at their disposal.

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Matt Kinsman

Some Recent Startups Are Going Back to the Drawing Board

Matt Kinsman emedia and Technology - 12/14/2010-12:29 PM

The publishing industry has seen a flood of ideas for new companies over the last two years, some driven by former publishing executives who want to leave the corporate grind behind and try to make it on their own, while others came from people forced into an entrepreneurial role due to downsizing.

Many of these startups are tapping into a new approach, leveraging community and technology for an economical launch. However, some are finding that while technology makes launching easier, that doesn't necessarily make fulfilling the business plan any easier.

Technonomy, a new media business launched earlier this year by a trio of former Fortune writers that included a "hybrid" of original reporting, opinion, aggregated content and contributed long form journalism, and which held its inagural event in August (featuring speakers such as Bill Gates, Google CEO Eric Schmidt and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman) is currently in the midst of "reconsidering its business model," according to partner Michael Christman.

Former CMP/UBM editorial director Scott Raynovich developed a Web business-The Rayno Report-that includes ad-supported blogs and paid research, as well as message boards and e-commerce. As noted by DeusM managing director and FOLIO: contributer Stephen Saunders, The Rayno Report cost $600 for two years of hosting on godaddy.com, plus $2,000 in programming work (that worked out to $3.56 per day). However, while The Rayno Report is profitable on a total investment of less than $10,000, Raynovich is looking to other options going forward.

"It's not exactly going to allow me to buy an NFL team, but it made money," he says. "If you want to keep it small, bootstrap it, and grow it organically, you can hustle your way out there but it will take time, focus, and a lot of hard work. I looked for funding to accelerate the process but it was hard to find a match. What I found is that most investors are looking for the big consumer Internet play that can scale to hundreds of millions of dollars--they all want the next Facebook."

The point of this post isn't to knock people who had the guts to strike out on their own during one of the worst recessions ever and blaze the trail for new publishing models. The point is that while technology makes launching much easier and more affordable, it doesn't necessarily make driving revenue month-after-month any easier. Entrepreneurs need to be prepared to change their original vision, sometimes drastically.

Richard Wallace, another former UBM exec, launched The Next Silicon Valley last January as a one-man show with a Web site and a Twitter strategy that filters posts from journalists all around the world. In the past year, the site was accepted as a GoogleNews provider and changed the editorial focus to the investment aspects of global innovation.

However, the revenue model has changed since the site launched. "The expectation at that time was to tap into budgets for tech-based and regional advertising and sponsorships, much along the lines of b-to-b ad-based Web sites," according to Wallace. "That model, however, has come under severe pressure in the current ad recession."

The Next Silicon Valley has now adopted a revenue model based on Google Adsense. "While this revenue stream is currently small, trials and experience have shown returns to be highly scalable, based on site traffic," says Wallace. "The plan for 2011 is to scale up the volume of content by increasing content throughout, and possibly adding additional news content sources. The idea is to grow the Adsense revenue and to build out new ad channels that reflect the four primary content areas: regions, countries, tech sectors and investors. Just with Google Adsense revenue, however, we are at break even for the year."

Wallace says the biggest challenge since launch has been the re-set on advertising and sponsor expectations and the realization that generating and growing online advertising revenue would require a re-think of the original ad model. "This in turn has required study and exploration of Adsense's auction-based online ad model and a slight re-working of the site's architecture, keyword structure and code base to maximize the number of and value of third-party ads," Wallace says. "Early returns here are very promising. It is risky to predict revenue targets or growth potential at this stage but I would expect that by this time next year we should be at or above a $5,000 to $7,000/month revenue target."

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Matt Kinsman

Disposable E-Readers on the Way?

Matt Kinsman emedia and Technology - 11/29/2010-13:57 PM

Back in 2007, FOLIO: ran a Q&A titled "E: Paper: Closer Than You Think" with Ken Bronfin, president of Hearst Interactive Media and chairman of electronic paper developer E Ink. While some of Bronfin's predictions may have been a bit premature at the time, over the last month, two significant developments may indicate that promise could finally be fulfilled.

First, E Ink announced in early November the release of its next generation display technogy, E Ink Triton, which enables color ePaper solutions.

Next, researchers at the University of Cincinnati may have laid the groundwork for the development of disposable e-readers. The researchers found that electrowetting-the process for applying an electric field to colored droplets with a display to reveal type and photos-is just as effective on paper as it is on glass. That could eventually lead to a device that is rollable and even feels like paper but offers digital content.

"One of the main goals of e-paper is to replicate the look and feel of actual ink on paper," the researchers said. "We have, therefore, investigated the use of paper as the perfect substrate for EW devices to accomplish e-paper on paper."

In a recent panel discussion about nominations for TIME's Person of the Year, devices like the iPod, the smartphone and increasingly the iPad were named for inciting a massive cultural shift. However, despite a recent Gartner Group projection that tablet sales will reach 19.5 million in 2010 and 54.8 million in 2011, the iPad's $499 starting price point means it can't compare as a "democratizing device" with the smartphone (which enables more texts to be sent each day in countries like Uganda than in New York City).

The emergence of a viable e-paper device could help fulfill that promise, drive down tablet prices, and be an easy conversion for publishers who have already jumped through the hoop of creating tablet and mobile apps. Let's just hope it doesn't take another three years to capitalize on the progress.

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Matt Kinsman

TIME’s Person of the Year: Is This the Year of the Bad Guy?

Matt Kinsman Consumer - 11/11/2010-11:47 AM

NEW YORK—TIME's editors have their work cut out for them this year.

It was apparent that there is no clear frontrunner during the "Who Should Be TIME's 2010 Person of the Year?" panel here last night. "It's been kind of a crazy year in which people couldn't control events like the oil spill," said managing editor Richard Stengel. "Human efforts seemed negligible and that's what's frustrating."

Panelists pretty much stuck to their own themes: blogger Meghan McCain nominated the Tea Party; Daisy Khan, executive director of the American Society of Muslim Advancement, named mayor Michael Bloomberg for his support of her husband's push to open a mosque near Ground Zero; political operator Joe Trippi (who ran the campaign that just re-elected Jerry Brown as governor of California) tapped Nancy Pelosi; musician, activist and would-be Haitian presidential candidate Wyclef Jean picked the people of Haiti ("After what they've gone through, if they're not on the cover, their struggle will fall off the map"); and Google vice president Marissa Mayer proposed the smartphone.

Mayer's nomination touched off a debate about whether Steve Jobs should be the Person of the Year. "I find it unbelievable he hasn't been named Person of the Year already," she said. "He's the Henry Ford of our time."

Trippi agreed, saying devices like the iPod, the smartphone and increasingly the iPad have ignited a massive cultural and business shift, with Jobs and Apple providing the means to take down previously closed structures like the music industry. "Jobs didn't want to be Goliath, he wanted to hand out the slingshots," he added.

Jobs was a harder sell for some in the audience, who may be feeling a bit of i-fatigue. One attendee pointed out that the iPad is a device for consuming, not creating (another told me in the elevator out, "The iPad? Come on, work a little harder to surprise me.") It's not just Apple overload—the mention of Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg prompted an audible hiss from right in front of the stage.

Bad Guy of the Year?

Since the TIME Person of the Year is about the individual who most influenced the news for good or bad, Stengel then asked panelists for their nomination of bad guys of the year. Again, panelists stuck to their guns, with picks ranging from Haitian president Rene Preval to WikLeaks founder Julian Assange ("He just looks like a James Bond villain," said McCain) to Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck ("the antithesis of the American ethos," according to Khan).

While Google's Mayer said 2010 was a "year of optimism," (she can be forgiven for being a little giddy after Google announced 10 percent raises and holiday cash bonuses yesterday, but that still begs the question of what the hell a Google exec has in common with the rest of the world), she tapped BP chief executive Tony Hayward. Trippi seconded Hayward, and offered Zimbabwe strongman Robert Mugabe as well.

If TIME's rationale for its 2009 Person of the Year (Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke) was that he prevented a bad situation from getting worse, a "Bad Guy" to represent the continued arrogance, anger and ineptitude displayed in 2010 sounds right to me.

 

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Matt Kinsman

A Reality Check For Magazine Sales On the iPad

Matt Kinsman emedia and Technology - 10/22/2010-08:49 AM

The launch of Wired’s iPad app in June was heralded as a new dawn for magazine publishers: the app generated 100,000 downloads, exceeding print single copy sales (which reached 77,443 in June, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations), without cannibalizing print.
 
In the days since, Wired’s iPad expectations have come back to earth. In July, the magazine posted 31,000 single copy sales for the digital replica, compared to 67,000 for the magazine, according to ABC’s Rapid Report. By August, the latest month tracked, Wired generated 28,000 single copy sales for the digital replica, versus 91,000 single copy sales for the magazine.
 
Obviously, a techie audience like Wired’s is going to “kick the tires” of the new app and subsequent issues will be hard pressed to live up to the launch, but Wired’s iPad app today is averaging nearly a quarter of its initial sales.
 
Men’s Health has seen a similar, albeit less dramatic pattern with its digital issues. In May, the magazine saw 3,602 single copy sales for its iPad app (compared to 435,079 single copy sales in print). In June (the latest month reported), Men’s Health generated 2,912 single copy sales in digital, versus 446,944 in print.
 
Yes, it’s still early days and the point of this isn't to pick on Wired and Men’s Health, both of which are doing very cool work and helping blaze the trail on the iPad. At this stage in the game, refining the approach is probably more important than anything else. "We've sold more since those numbers were originally reported, but sales are just a part of the story,” Men’s Health brand editor Matt Bean tells me. “This magazine offering is the first in a series of evolution points, and moreover, complements the rest of our industry-leading digital product line. At the brand level, we look at a scope of feedback in addition to sales to determine success, including pricing and promotion (both internally and by Apple), and on a broader company level, we're looking at how quickly we've been able to bring iPad editions for all of the Rodale titles to market."
 
The potential is huge: Financial Times has more than 400,000 downloads with its iPad app and recently said it generated nearly $2 million in advertising. However, regardless of stunning sales numbers (Gartner Group this week said it expects tablet sales to reach 19.5 million in 2010 and 54.8 million in 2011) and what the East and West Coast technorati may think, the tablet isn’t a ubiquitous device. In a nine-hour trip to and from New York City yesterday, I saw zero iPads among commuters and pedestrians (compared to countless iPods and smartphones). I don’t doubt that tablets will attain similar status, particularly as new devices drive market prices down, but right now they just don’t offer the same market saturation.
 
However, the sinking numbers in single copy digital sales suggest consumer dissatisfaction with either the apps or the distribution process or both. If tablets are the future, publishers need to reverse the sinking number of downloads, and make sure apps aren’t just a fraction of the "wheezing, old" print magazine. 

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Matt Kinsman

The Big Postal Hike is Dead, But Rates Could Jump Up to 2 Percent Next Year

Matt Kinsman Consumer - 10/07/2010-10:58 AM

Last week the magazine industry celebrated the Postal Regulatory Commission's unanimous decision to deny the United States Postal Service's attempt to break its existing CPI cap and raise rates for periodical mailers by 8 percent and First-Class mail stamps to 46 cents.

It was a huge win for periodicals mailers-many of whom would have been drive out of business by such a hike. But the fact remains that the industry is still likely to see a postal rate increase within the cap, and possibly (although unlikely) renewed efforts by the USPS to float the 8 percent rate hike again. The question is whether the increase comes earlier in the year-in which case the jump will be relatively small-or later in the year, in which case the rate hike could be larger.

"The USPS is still allowed to raise rates up to the CPI cap without approval from the PRC," wrote Making Magazines president Terry Coate Jr. in a blog. "The CPI is expected to be in the area of 2.5 percent. . .Expect a rate increase of 2.5 percent and be pleasantly surprised if it doesn't happen."

Not so fast, says Jim Cregan, executive vice president for government affairs at MPA. "Our economists tell us it could be in the neighborhood of 1.5 percent if the postal service were to move quickly and do it in first few calendar months of 2011. If they decide to wait until May, the increase could be a little higher. The economists seem to agree that range would be 1.5 percent to 1.8 percent with a maximum increase of 2 percent, with the way inflation is running."

"Keep in mind that USPS did not implement a CPI-based increase this year, so it has more than a year's worth of admittedly modest CPI increase in the bank," adds David Straus, American Business Media's Washington counsel and postal expert.

There is a slight chance the USPS could even refile the case. "They could try presenting the case in a different way to convince the commission to bust the cap," says Cregan. "However, the consensus of opinion that is they will exercise their authority under the cap sometime in early 2011."

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