Hearst Corp seeks slice of US digital mail market

Publishing giant Hearst Corporation has unveiled its proposal to steer America’s transactional mail stream into the digital world. The company that publishes Cosmopolitan, Esquire and Marie Claire magazines and newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News launched its Manilla system this week.

The Manilla website, which is currently in its beta-testing phase, offers consumers a free account management service to help them deal with bills, finances and subscriptions and “reduce clutter”.

As with rival systems being developed by the likes of Zumbox and Pitney Bowes, Manilla is set to offer online storage for account statements, offers and bills, and also send out alerts when deadlines approach such as bill payment dates.

Hearst Corporation said the new product was aiming at the 48bn documents sent through the US mail by businesses each year.

The company is aiming to sign up commercial mailers by offering the opportunity to communicate with consumers “efficiently” while reducing mailing costs. It has started with online bank Citi Cards and cable TV company Comcast.

George Kliavkoff, the former chief digital officer at NBC Universal who now heads up Hearst’s Manilla subsidiary as CEO, said the new system’s simple interface was designed to help consumers save time and “remove clutter from their lives”.

He said: “Manilla also serves as a powerful new way for businesses to communicate with their customers that is complementary to current online efforts and reduces the considerable costs that are spent on printed mail every day.”

On average, Manilla said around 11% of consumers in North America are opting to go “paperless”.

From this week, consumers are being invited to request invitations to join the beta phase of the project, which will give them access to a personal dashboard through which they can organize their account data.

The company said it was launching with support for four categories of mail – finance, household bills, magazine subscriptions and travel rewards programs.

It said customers could access accounts with “nearly all national and major regional household brands”, and that additional businesses were being added daily.

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