I’ve occasionally thought of the struggles journalists face, with the ever-looming democratization of news, as a change of power. This kind of shift in power is good in some ways (more voices), and bad in others (noise). Generally left out of this conversation, though, is how the Post Office (and mail in general) is also facing that power shift. It appears more and more that the reliable need to send mail on paper being replaced by other tools like email, scanners, and faxing (to a lesser extent). I thought, what could the Post Office do to stay relevant?
One way that the Post Office in Canada responded was the creation of something called ePost in 2000. The idea is that users can sign up to to have bills sent to them electronically. Of course, this is only bills and the billing companies have to be signed up to do this. When a bill comes in, you log into the ePost website and open and pay the bills as you would if they came in on paper.
Sure, that’s not a bad idea, but it’s not enough. What I think the Post Office needs right now is to offer two services:
1. For Everyone: The option to have all mail sent to your name and address scanned electronically and emailed to an address in a common format (likely PDF). The paper mail will be held and accessible for a duration (possibly a year) and then shredded. Regular email verification are email to ensure account is active, if not responded too, paper mail service resumes.
2. For Senders: The option to sign up and have specific paper mail scanned and emailed to a specific address in a common format (likely PDF). Again, if the email address is not regularly verified, paper mail resumes. If the receiver is already signed up for email-mail, great.
Some may say that this just makes the Post Office a “glorified paper scanning outfit”, and that may not be too far off the mark. The fascinating thing is every Post Office has existed on the premise of automating massive amounts of process. Currently, they scan codes of envelopes and much more, but the scan paper to email should be the end game for them.