In digital age, snail mail is an anachronism for a large percent of the population. But when it comes to the business of politics, postal in the form of direct mail is dug in on the front lines.

In digital age, snail mail is an anachronism for a large percent of the population. But when it comes to the business of politics, postal in the form of direct mail is dug in on the front lines.

A major advantage of direct mail over other forms of political hype (such as television advertisements) is the near-guarantee that people will see it, says Jonathan Varner, founder and president of JVA campaigns, a Democratic-leaning firm.

"It ends up in people's mailboxes," Varner says. "Direct mail is still relevant. It is the only means of contacting a voter that is not an interruption. You can deliver it to a specifically targeted voter, and for most campaigns it is pretty affordable and has value no matter what office you are running for."

The standard price is 40 to 50 cents per piece of mail, which includes printing, addressing, graphic design and postage. For larger campaigns, the economy of scale will drive the price down, Varner says.

"It's tough to do anything with one delivery of a message, so it is rare that anyone is going to send one piece of mail," he says. "If it is a more complex issue or an unknown candidate, you often have to hit them more then one time."

The operation isn't all old fashioned. JVA, which does work in 17 states, creates digital messages, too. The firm uses sophisticated algorithms to find target audiences.

"They have analytic models that assign numerical probabilities to each voter in your district," Varner says. "They look at pools of voters with particular characteristics and come up with variables that say 'these voters here are more likely to matter.'"

It is sophisticated and sounds like a thriving enterprise, but for Varner and many others in the political business field, there is a drawback.

"It's easy to look at the money in politics and believe it is very lucrative, but it is totally a cyclical business," he says. "Like retailers, we have Black Fridays, too. They're usually in September and October, and for a lot of firms that only comes every two years."