Heroically riding in to save the US Postal Service, it's ... junk mail? Yes, the USPS is focusing on advertising mail—"we don't call it junk mail," notes Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe—to boost its business, reaching out to businesses to send more of their "pitches" via snail mail. "What we want to do is to make standard mail more interesting for customers so we can grow the total volume," says Donahoe. Though the volume of first-class mail dropped 7% in fiscal year 2011, advertising mail increased 3%. It now makes up 48% of all mail.
Just 1.4% of households responded to advertising mail sent to new customers in 2010—which may not seem like a lot, until you consider that just 0.62% of new customers responded to email pitches during the same time frame. Even so, businesses have been increasingly turning to email over the past decade due to its low cost, the Wall Street Journal notes. But the USPS has an answer for that: It's pushing advertising mail that "matches up digital and hardcopy," such as direct mail featuring special codes that can be read by smartphones.