Some good news for the U.S. Postal Service for a change …

psThe U.S. Postal Service has just implemented a price adjustment on first class letter mail – the first rate increase in quite a few years. Some other pricing adjustments have been implemented as well, but on the whole they are modest.

Hopefully the rate increases won’t throw water on the good news that the USPS experienced over the holiday season. According to a Rasmussen Reports consumer survey of ~1,000 American adults age 18 and over conducted at the end of December, Americans used the USPS more in the most recent holiday than in the 2015 season.

The public also continues to give the USPS higher marks than its major competitors – FedEx and UPS – on the way it handles their packages.

For the record, ~21% of the respondents surveyed by Rasmussen reported that they used the U.S. Postal Service more this holiday season than they have in previous years, while ~18% reported they used it less. The remaining ~61% kept their USPS usage at around the same level of activity.

On the commercial side, for many businesses who do not have the kind of high volume shipping needs to qualify for special pricing from FedEx or UPS, the USPS also appears to be a far more lucrative choice from a price-to-value relationship.

usIn mid-2015, FitSmallBusiness.com undertook apple-to-apples comparisons of the three big package delivery firms, and found some startling differences.  For example, to ship a 3-lb. package overnight-delivery from New York City to Los Angeles, using FedEx would set the sender back $83.  UPS was even worse, at $84.

The USPS price?  Just $24.99.

Comparing short-haul rates as well as heavier 10-lb. packages found similar major discrepancies — all in favor of using the U.S. Postal Service. On top of that, the USPS provides free packaging materials, complimentary pick-up service, free insurance and tracking — not to mention flat-rate boxes for packages that weigh up to 70 lbs.

feSealing the deal further, while FedEx’s 50,000+ and UPS’s 63,000+ locations worldwide are certainly nice to rely on, the number of USPS locations dwarfs those figures by a country mile. Those myriad USPS locations also mean that packages can be shipped to P.O. boxes in addition to physical addresses – something that’s out of the reach of either FedEx or UPS.

People love to beat up on the United States Postal Service.  But say what you will about the USPS, its problems and its financial challenges, they’re still a major-league bargain for many consumers and businesses.

What do consumers think of America’s corporations?

Corporate Trust ... Corporate ReputationWith the budget negotiations in full swing – and high dudgeon – on Capital Hill, naturally the public’s critical eye is trained on our political figures. And Congress is most assuredly taking a beating in the political polls, with approval ratings plunging astonishly below the 20% figure.

[Of course, is that really so surprising? After all, Congress is pretty evenly matched between the two parties … so partisans see much to criticize on both sides.]

The focus of attention on Washington has taken the spotlight off of corporate America – at least in terms of media attention. But that doesn’t mean that “John Q. Public” is giving companies much of a break.

I’ve blogged before about corporate reputations — most recently commenting on a field survey conducted early this year by Harris Interactive that measured the appeal of 60 of the “most visible” American corporate brands. That survey showed an uptick in positive opinions about those firms when compared to prior-year results.

But a May 2011 survey by GfK Custom Research North America shows otherwise. The findings from GfK’s online field survey of ~1,000 U.S. consumers include this doozy: Two-thirds of respondents believe that it’s harder today for American companies to be trusted than it was three years ago.

Furthermore, ~55% say it will be harder for companies to gain their trust in the years to come.

What’s bothering people about U.S. corporations? In order of significance, here are the key concerns:

 The perception that CEOs and other senior executives of corporations are overpaid.

 Corruption in senior management circles.

 Companies make up lost earnings at the expense of their customers.

 More products than ever are being manufactured overseas.

Interestingly, there’s less concern about declining product or service quality as a reason for lower levels of trust. And as has been found in other studies, the public’s view of technology companies is somewhat higher than its trust for companies in other industry segments.

But back to the rather grim overall findings … fewer than one in five survey respondents anticipate that corporate corruption will become better over time – a result that’s substantially lower than what was found in similar field research conducted by GfK a few years ago.

This survey underscores the fact that corporate America has a long way to go to change the sharply negative impressions consumers have of the world of business. Clearly, the financial crisis of 2008 continues to extend its long shadow more than two years later.

And it looms over everyone – public and private sector alike.

This helps explain the generally sour mood people are in these days.

Even John Q. Public doesn’t believe newspapers are going to survive …

It’s not just inside observers who are predicting the demise of the printed newspaper. The “Great American Public” seems to be well clued in to the problems of newspapers also. In fact, a poll released by Rasmussen Reports on May 12, 2009 reports that fully two thirds of adult Americans believe daily papers will disappear within the next ten years.

Even more dramatic, nearly one in five respondents think that it will happen within three years.

When two thirds of all adult Americans predict daily papers will go the way of the dinosaur within the coming decade, that’s big news. No longer is this just a discussion among industry insiders … it’s crept into the popular culture. That’s yet another big danger signal for the papers.

All of this is underscored by Rasmussen’s findings that a majority of Americans (56%) purchase a paper once per week or less — and 37% rarely or never buy a print version of their local paper.

In a possibly related development, Rasmussen’s surveys report that the credibility of newspapers and other media has declined in the public’s eyes. For example, only about one in four respondents has a favorable opinion of the New York Times. That may be a new low for a paper that likes to think of itself as America’s #1 print news source.

The most recent Newspaper Association of America’s financial figures are showing that newspapers have lost a whopping $18 billion over the past three years in their print operations. And while many papers have been counting on their online operations to counterbalance all of this red ink, total Internet revenues over the same period amounted to ~$9 billion — not nearly enough to erase the losses on the print side.

Of course, as this is 2009, the story would not be complete without government officials coming to the rescue, offering their share of interesting proposals. But how does the public feel about these efforts by politicians to save the newspapers? Nearly 40% favor federal government subsidies to keep newspapers in business … but slightly more than half feel it’s better simply to let them go out of business.

It will be interesting to see what the federal and state legislatures actually end up doing — whether it be turning newspaper companies into not-for-profit entities as Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland has suggested … or providing special business tax breaks for the industry as has been proposed by Washington’s governor Christine Gregoire.

Whatever is attempted, my prediction is that it won’t have nearly the positive effect its proponents hope for. The sweep of change in the communications arena is simply too broad and deep for that.