Digital Mail vs U.S. Postal Service

There was a plan for the future of mail. It was visionary. It was also naive.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

This plan went way beyond email. The small startup Outbox had done its homework on the role mail plays in our lives, on the value people place on a letter and a catalog, and they imagined what mail could become. The plan to reinvent postal delivery for the digital age had real promise, the founders thought. So did investors and many customers. It was a new age of mail. And then... well, the Postal Service didn't want to play nice.

In this episode: 

  • The story of Outbox, a dream crushed. 
  • What it takes to innovate at the post office.
  • How other countries from Sweden to Namibia have more digital-forward mail services than the U.S.
  • The proposals for postal innovation that have a chance at happening.



Mohammad Adra and Evan Baehr

Hosted by:

Manoush Zomorodi

Produced by:

Daniel P. Tucker

Comments [6]

Ben from Crown Heights

I wasn't into Outbox, but the need for changing the post office got me thinking, We should be able to send letters by email. The post office would have printing centers in various locations, and you email the letter to a physical address, and the post office prints it at the location closest to the letter's destination and in your prescribed format (some basic business or personal templates could easily be created) and delivers it. This wouldn't cut down on junk mail, but that's a different step. Instead, it could save the post office millions of miles of delivery and gas. You still can't email packages still.

Jul. 16 2014 12:12 PM
Mariano from Argentina

Luddites comes to mind.

Jul. 14 2014 07:27 PM
joe from new york

The comments here seem unduly harsh. The insidesources article is very complete and balanced - and the USPS, which has been steadily failing for years, looks even worse. If you have ire to express, I would focus it on USPS. They've wasted billions of dollars for years and going to the post office is an unparalleled torture. Outbox probably won't crack the USPS nut but something will soon enough. Hopefully.

Jul. 10 2014 08:26 AM
KA from NYC

I was disappointed by the tone, the lack of balance and any real scrutiny in the story. It ran more like a snarky opinion piece with the slant that the PO was so old and uncool and everything about Outbox was so awesome. Even younger listeners would find this silly. Please, I beg you: stick with solid, impartial reporting and well-written stories.

Jul. 09 2014 05:34 PM
john from office

To hear a spoiled brat kid use the terms" old guys with their old blackberrys" is scary. Blackberrys are sooooo last year.

These guys sound like smart people looking for that great app, to make billions, the hell with social effects!! We want to scan your mail Bioouch!

Soon we will hear, those people with their old Iphones, old Ipads!! That will be in six months.

Jul. 09 2014 07:58 AM
DC from Brooklyn, NY

So... this thing just scans the entire letter into an image, AND gives you the option of keeping the actual physical letter or throw it away? That sounds like a stupid idea, and pretty invasive. The only disruptive thing about it seems like you're paying for what the intelligence agencies do to certain types of people everyday.

The USPS may be seen as outdated and such, but they are still better than UPS and FedEx.

Doing a search for Outbox, I found a particularly negative article from tech blog Verge as the third result.

Jul. 09 2014 06:03 AM

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