Analyzing the mail

Being a data person makes me do unusual things at times.  For example, I’ve been recording the contents of my mailbox each day in an attempt to understand what advertisers know, or think they know anyway, about me.  By mailbox I mean the container on a wooden post on the side of the street in front of my house, and not the electronic sort which contains promises of Nigerian wealth and deep discounts on Viagra.  I note the date, the sender, and the category of each item of mail not specifically addressed to anyone else in the house.  So anything generically sent to my address without a name, or sent to me specifically makes the cut.

Things like this require much patience from my wife.

Knowing that this is an election year might make this an interesting project.  Given that we have a primary election here next Tuesday, the political mailers are probably the most interesting story.  But first, let’s have a look at six weeks of mail, broken down into categories.  The bar graph is sorted so that the largest category is at the bottom for each day.  This is on the busy side, to be sure, but from the colors alone you can see that straight up “Advertisements” (in red) are the largest category, with “Political Advertisements” (purple) a close second (the two are maintained as separate categories).  You can see the last two days were a bit bigger than usual for volume.

Categorized mail by date received.

Categorized mail by date received.

This is clearer by looking at totals by category instead of by date.

Six weeks of mail, sorted by category.

Six weeks of mail, sorted by category.

That’s all fine and good. Nothing unexpected there.  Mostly advertisements, some bills, 401(k) statements, a few magazines.  What is remarkable though, is how the “Political Advertisements” category is growing.  That first graph is somewhat difficult to read carefully because it has all the categories in there together.  So let’s just see political ads on their own.  

Political advertisements, by date received.

Political advertisements, by date received.

Now this is interesting.  Given that the last few days have contained half the political ads I’ve received in six weeks, I can only imagine what the next few days will bring.  

Something that is interesting can be seen in the totals by “sender” graph (political mail sorted by by who sent it, plotted below).  Not from what is there, but from what is missing.  In the US Senate race, the biggest race in the state, four days before the primary, and I have received nothing at all in my mailbox from any of the US Senate candidates.  Nothing at all from Scott Brown or Bob Smith, but do note that is running ads in favor of Jim Rubens, though they claim not to be authorized by any candidate.  (It seems my naming convention for this category get picked up by the ad blockers, so if you don’t see some of these graphs, pause your ad blocker for the moment.)

Political advertisements, sorted by sender.

Political advertisements, sorted by sender.

I’m not sure what that means right now, but it does lend some insight into their respective strategies.   And as I wrote that my phone rang with a call from Scott Brown’s campaign…

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