The USPS Household Diary Study: Mail Use & Attitudes in FY 2011 -- Periodicals
By NuStats on behalf of the United States Postal Service (USPS)
"Magazines and newspapers arrive in the household mainly because of consumer choice. Consumers value them and they remain a desirable, viable component in the marketing mix."
Date released: April 2011 (Note: As of June 2013, this is the latest study/data released).
Type of Promotional Material/Activity Tested: Periodicals (magazines and newspapers) delivered to households by the U.S. Postal Service. The volumes examined here are only a portion of the total periodicals volume, since some periodicals are received by non-households, such as doctors’ offices or other businesses.
Sample Population: 5,200 U.S. households returned acceptable completed diaries (out of 8,021 households recruited to receive a diary package, representing a completion rate of 64.8%). The sample design involved a systematic sample stratified by urban/rural location and census region, ensuring even coverage across the U.S. The sample was continuously fielded throughout all 52 weeks of the year.
Methodology: The Household Diary Study is a continuously fielded study that uses a two-stage survey design: Stage 1 is an interviewer-mediated household recruitment interview. Stage 2 is a self-completed seven-day household diary of household mail received and sent.
Metrics: This section of the study examined magazines and newspapers delivered in the mail. Newspapers or magazines delivered by a local carrier or purchased at a newsstand or store are not included.
- In FY 2011, households received 5.4 billion periodicals, compared to 5.5 billion in FY 2010 and 6.0 in FY 2009. Periodicals represent 3.9% of all household mail volumes.
- Historically, total periodicals mail volumes have not kept pace with population growth over time. Periodicals volumes reached a peak in 1990 at 10.7 billion pieces, but have declined each year since 1997, with the exception of FY 2000. After the recession that started in 2001, periodicals volumes slipped not only because of reduced subscriptions, but also due to the number of publications that ceased operation as sources of advertising revenue dried up. Since then, periodicals’ volume continued to decline as the Internet became an increasingly accepted substitute for hard-copy publications. Since 2008, the decline was further aggravated by the impact of the severe recession and a weak recovery.
- Seventy-eight percent of all periodicals received by households are magazines. In contrast, in 1987 the share of magazines was 59%.
- Households received an average of 0.7 magazines per week in 2011. The most common type of magazine is monthly, accounting for 57% of total magazines.
Newspapers received via the mail (not via newspaper carrier) made up 11% of total periodicals volume -- down from a 35% share in 1987. The decline in newspapers captured in the Household Diary Study mirrors the behavior seen in overall newspaper circulation.
Higher income and more education translates into more magazines and newspapers received. Households with incomes over $100,000 receive more than three times as many periodicals as households earning less than $35,000.
2011 Periodicals Received by Income and Age of Household Head
(Pieces per household per week)
|Household Income||Under 34||35 to 54||Over 55||Average|
|$35K to $65K||.4||.6||1.0||.7|
|$65K to $100K||.6||.9||1.3||1.1|
|Source: USPS Household Diary Sample, FY 2011|
- Households with two adults receive more periodicals than one-person households (1.0 pieces versus .6 pieces per week). The presence of additional adults beyond two does not translate into more periodicals received.
Households with Internet access receive more periodicals than those without access. This is reflective of household characteristics such as income and education. Households with broadband and dial-up access average .9 periodicals a week while homes without Internet access average .7 periodicals per week. The study states that this is largely the result of the correlation between income, education, and Internet access.
The distribution of subscription types has remained relatively stable and is similar to the 1987 level. In 2011, subscription types received:
- Paid subscriptions, 44%
- Free subscriptions (ordered or received as a prerogative of membership in an organization), 6%
- Gift subscriptions, 5%
- Free (not ordered), 29%
Subscriptions received, but not ordered or paid for, 1%
Note: percentage does not total 100 due to the exclusion of periodicals sent to non-households and those to which no response was given as to subscription type.
Most publications are produced by commercial or professional organizations. In 2011, publications by sender:
- Sent by commercial organizations, 82%
- Sent by professional organizations, 7%
- Sent by religious organizations, 3%
- Sent by educational organizations, 3%
- Unions, charities, veterans’ organizations, and others account for the remainder.
Take-Away: This study, performed annually since 1987 by the U.S. Postal Service, provides a consistent look at households' attitudes towards mail received. Magazines and newspapers arrive in the household mainly because of consumer choice. Consumers value them and they remain a desirable, viable component in the marketing mix.
Complexity rating of original source: 1 (Complex statistical analysis scale: 1= none, 2= moderate, 3 = difficult)
Source: The Household Diary Study: Mail Use & Attitudes in FY 2011