Lancaster Farming’ Prepping for End of Saturday Mail

2/9/2013 7:00 AM
By Chris Torres Staff Writer

EPHRATA, Pa. — Lancaster Farming has begun shifting subscribers to an alternative delivery system in preparation for the elimination of Saturday mail delivery.

About 25 percent of the newspaper’s 58,000 subscribers are currently getting their newspapers delivered by other newspapers, according to Peter Lindquist, Lancaster Farming’s assistant general manager and advertising director.

Lindquist said these partnerships will ensure that most Lancaster Farming subscribers will continue getting their newspaper delivered to their door on Saturday.

“We’re looking to try to put arrangements together for other areas,” he said.

Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe announced Wednesday that, due to its “urgent” financial condition, the U.S. Postal Service will eliminate Saturday deliveries of everything but packages, starting in August.

Delivery to post office boxes will continue, and post offices open on Saturdays will stay open.

The Postal Service sustained a $15.9 billion loss in the last budget year. The move to cut Saturday deliveries is expected to save $2 billion a year.

According to The Associated Press, the proposed change in service is based on an apparent legal loophole, which may be a gamble.

Six-day postal delivery started in 1863. Since 1984, every annual appropriations bill has included a rider prohibiting five-day-only mail service. The current bill is not set to expire until the end of the month, so, Seaver said, “It is still part of law that the Postal Service has to maintain six-day service.”

Because the federal government is operating under a temporary spending measure rather than an appropriations bill, Donahoe says it’s the agency’s interpretation that it can make the change itself.

The Postal Service has undergone major restructuring since 2006, cutting annual costs by about $15 billion, reducing its workforce by 28 percent, and consolidating more than 200 mail processing locations.

Lindquist said Lancaster Farming started working with other newspapers last year after issues resulted from the Postal Service closing its Frederick, Md., processing facility and consolidating it with another facility in Baltimore.

Many subscribers complained of not getting their newspapers on time, and some said their newspapers were being delivered up to a week late.

The company entered agreements with three newspapers — the Frederick News Post, Herald-Mail and Baltimore Sun — to deliver Lancaster Farming to about 3,500 subscribers in the state. Maryland is Lancaster Farming’s second largest subscriber base after Pennsylvania.

Another agreement with the Philadelphia Inquirer covers 6,500 subscribers around the Philadelphia area and South Jersey.

Most of the 9,047 subscribers in Lancaster County are getting their newspaper delivered through Lancaster Newspapers, the parent company of Lancaster Farming.

Lindquist said the company is in the process of setting up partnerships with other newspapers in the region to eventually cover about 60 percent of the newspaper’s subscribers by August.

One planned partnership with the Washington Post, he said, would cover subscribers on the Eastern Shore.

About 3,500 subscribers in a six-county region around Harrisburg were switched to an alternative delivery system in early January, but problems affecting several hundred of them prompted Lancaster Farming to switch all those subscribers back to the Postal Service.

Lindquist said that to ensure those subscribers continue receiving their papers on Saturday, Lancaster Farming is working on an agreement with Media News Group, which has newspapers in York, Chambersburg, Hanover and Lebanon, that would provide carrier delivery to Lancaster Farming subscribers in Adams, Franklin, Lebanon and York counties.

A planned agreement with The Patriot News would cover Dauphin and Perry counties.

Subscribers in more outlying areas such as New York state and Virginia, which already get their newspapers on either Monday or Tuesday, shouldn’t be affected, he said, since the movement of postal items will continue on the weekends.

But the elimination of Saturday deliveries may still affect subscribers in more rural areas not covered by a newspaper agreement.

Anyone with questions about the elimination of Saturday mail delivery may contact John Betz, circulation manager for Lancaster Farming, at 717-721-4411.

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