Deutsche Post has released some more info about the coming Online-Letter (“Online-Brief”) product. It is due to start in the first half of 2010, the price structuring is yet unknown. Deutsche Post says that flat rates or per-piece pricing, or both, could be possible. German newspapers indicate that the price would be less than 10 Euro cents (approx. $0.15). Deutsche Post is expected to spend double digit million Euro figures to advertise the new service and mid-term revenue is expected to be some triple digit million Euro figure.

At the core of the offering is the assurance to protect the inviolability of the mail. Deutsche Post encrypts all digital mail to ensure that it cannot be altered or viewed by unauthorized parties. Sender and receiver of Online-Letters will have to register with their passport, spam is said to be non-existent and the sending of some documents, like orders, is legally binding. You can send an Online-Letter even to someone without internet access. If the recipient does not have an Online-Letter account, then Deutsche Post will print your letter and send it along with regular paper mail. We suspect that additional charges will apply for this service.

Cooperation with financial service providers is taking place in order to allow bill payments per mouse click. Further Deutsche Post seeks ways to implement consumer micro-payments.  This effort is aimed at publishers to allow them to distribute fee-based journalistic content via Online-Letter. kress-Info mentioned the possibility of Deutsche Post creating a digital newsstand to give the consumer convenient access to all available fee based contents. This idea was presented during a publisher’s meeting in Hamburg. Although publishers are looking to establish ways to charge for digital content, some were skeptical and might wait for Deutsche Post to implement a functioning platform. There has been a lot of discussion going on these days about dwindling newspaper/magazine subscriptions vs. free web based information. It is our opinion that revenues, from fee based digital content, can help support independent and multifaceted journalism. The Deutsche Post Online-Letter might just provide the means for that. Time will tell.

Deutsche Post chairman Jürgen Gerdes said that the Online-Letter will be treated as confidential as paper based mail. Critical opinions voiced already some doubts. And that is not a surprise since Germany has recently been shaken up by numerous privacy/data scandals, which left the citizens a tad on edge. An especially delicate case is that of the Ex-CEO of Deutsche Post, Klaus Zumwinkel. Allegations suggest that he was involved in the Telekom spying scandal. At the time he was CEO of Deutsche Post and thus the guardian of the mail’s inviolability, alas the suspected faux-pas is related to a supervisory board function he had at the time with Deutsche Telekom. The Deutsche Post Online-Letter competes against the government project de-mail, where aforementioned Telekom takes part as a main development partner. See our prior blog entry.