Nightly News   |  October 09, 2011

Junk mail a treasure for post office

The volume of first class mail dropped seven percent last year, but advertising mail increased three percent — infusing the U.S. Post Office with much needed cash. NBC's Tom Costello reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> back now with a real sign of the times . deep in debt and facing hundreds of thousands of layoffs, it is no secret the u.s. postal service is desperate to stay afloat in this increasingly digital world . last year, postal workers moved 82 billion pieces of junk mail through the system. and in dire need of new revenue, the postal service is hoping to slip more of the catalogs into your mailbox. here is nbc's tom costello.

>> reporter: it is one of those rituals of daily life that people either love or hate.

>> junk mail has to go. the purpose of getting the po box was to eliminate all of it.

>> i don't like it. it goes from the mailbox to the trash or to the recycling bin.

>> reporter: the first thing you need to know about junk mail is that it is not junk to the postal service . it is serious money at a time when the usps is running an $8.5 billion short fall. while the volume of first class mail, personal letters to bills, dropped 7% last year, and a whopping 26% over the last four years, advertising mail increased 3% last year, now making up nearly half of all mail. and the postal service is running a series of tv ads urging businesses to send even more, with the reminder that mail rarely gets hacked.

>> it is good for your business. and even better for your customers.

>> reporter: so why in a digital age are advertisers even turning to the mail? because it turns out a catalog is a lot harder to delete than an e-mail and chances are you'll sit at home and flip through it.

>> the critical thing for us is to do two things. generate new revenues through direct advertising mail and have a big share of that package market that follows up when you buy something online.

>> reporter: while only 1.4% of households buy after receiving a mailed ad, even fewer, about half a percent, buy after getting an e-mail ad. that's hard to ignore as a financially strapped postal service desperate for revenue prepares to cut saturday delivery and 220,000 jobs.

>> the sobering reality is that first class mail volume lost will not return.

>> reporter: expected to drop another 50% over the next ten years.

>> i don't really have any mail that comes to my house. it is all online.

>> reporter: so while you may no longer get your bills or handwritten birthday cards, the postal service is hoping to keep your box full. tom costello, nbc news, chantilly, virginia.