Finweek English Edition - - Advertising & Marketing -

FOR MORE THAN 30 YEARS in var­i­ous parts of Africa I sub­scribed re­li­giously to Time mag­a­zine. It was my win­dow on the world, par­tic­u­larly in places where lo­cal news sources were in­ad­e­quate or bi­ased. I prided my­self on be­ing one of Time’s long­est-run­ning sub­scribers and waited (in vain, as it hap­pens) for that to be recog­nised with a small award.

But a cou­ple of years ago I let my sub­scrip­tion lapse and made no at­tempt to re­new it.

Not be­cause Time had de­te­ri­o­rated, but be­cause South Africa’s the Post Of­fice had. I found that in a good month I’d re­ceive three out of four is­sues. More of­ten it was only two. When you’re re­ceiv­ing half the is­sues, those heav­ily dis­counted sub­scrip­tion rates be­gin to lose their at­trac­tion.

Now I no­tice the banks are warn­ing cus­tomers not to ex­pect that cheques sent in the post will ac­tu­ally ar­rive. Mer­chants laugh de­ri­sively when you say your cheque’s in the post – giv­ing new pi­quancy to that clichéd ex­cuse.

The rea­son for all that is, of course, theft. Those is­sues of Time mag­a­zine aren’t be­ing eaten by ter­mites.

One won­ders what dam­age is be­ing done to the pub­lish­ing in­dus­try, which still sends many of its sub­scrip­tion copies through the post.

But there’s lit­tle doubt about the harm the Post Of­fice is do­ing to it­self. Through it all its ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign blithely in­sists: “We de­liver – what­ever it takes.” Noth­ing can dam­age its im­age more than a claim so bla­tantly un­true.

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