Marked copy elimination tabled because of future cost implications for Periodicals
July 6, 2015
Service initiatives underway
By Max Heath
The National Newspaper Association’s Postal Committee had been hopeful that the U.S. Postal Service rulemakers would agree to an elimination of a marked copy of Periodical newspapers showing advertising for each issue. This is based on a request to the Periodicals Advisory Group and the initial agreement of management of the Pricing & Classification Service Center in New York City. In this era of growing electronic documentation, the marked copy is becoming a bit of a throwback, and it causes NNA members to lose some of the efficiency they should have as they join the e-Doc program.
We even felt hopeful enough that USPS would loosen the requirements after I mentioned the possibility in this column awhile back, and I’ve had resoundingly positive feedback from NNA members.
Nevertheless, we were disheartened to learn in a follow-up PAG meeting at the PCSC in June that elimination was tabled. Mailers expressed concern to me about the extra scrutiny such a change could bring to Periodicals Class Mail at this time. It would have caused more of an “exposed look” at mailings that could be costly, and those costs would be passed along to Periodicals, it was feared. But several alterations to the process were agreed to.
• USPS urged publishers to submit marked copies to their original entry office instead of the additional entry office to aid in future implementation of seamless acceptance.
• USPS will work with any original entry offices having minimal Periodicals marked copy audit knowledge.
• To avoid the submission of marked copies for “each edition,” the USPS will review DMM standard (DMM Section 207.16.2). The group recommended possible change from edition to main or prominent issue.
• The USPS will propose DMM language on the timeframe for submission. The industry requested at least a 24-hour window or the next business day.
• Once changes are made, the item will be considered closed.
Brad Hill, Interlink Software president, said in response to the news, “I can almost hear their eyes rolling when I tell folks they still have to submit a physical marked copy after getting them excited about how eDoc (electronic documentation) eliminates printed postage statements.”
Postmasters aren’t required to verify the percentage as accurate except during an annual postage payment audit. And the proposal would have still allowed post offices to request one, if it thought it was needed.
Some in USPS were excited about ending the burden of storage for six months on all the magazines in the country whose main offices were in New York City. There were reportedly rooms full of magazines and newspapers in a main post office in Manhattan.
NNA, which has a coveted seat on the PAG, where all decisions must be by consensus of Periodicals mailers and the Postal Service, agreed with Hill’s assessment, especially in light of the USPS emphasis on eliminating paper transactions.
In lieu of the elimination of the marked copy, NNA requested that Periodicals be granted a delay in submission by up to 24 hours or next business day after the newspapers are entered. (Sometimes a holiday or non-work day occurs the day of entry of a newspaper.)
Most newspapers can compute the actual advertising percentage before the actual press run, but they often don’t have the physical copy available to mark. And often mail entry is made after hours when there is an Overnight Drop and the newspaper office is closed. Printing is often far away at a central web printing plant.
PERIODICALS SERVICE TRACKING
STUDY VIA USPS “KAIZEN” EVENT
NNA’s complaints to USPS headquarters about newspaper delivery service nationwide have resulted in a short-term “Kaizen” project to study what they call “the value-stream process”—from publisher to processing plant to delivery—which was initiated by the operations group within USPS headquarters.
Newly-named Vice President/Network Operations Linda-Marie Malone, responding to complaints from NNA-member newspapers, asked two staffers under her to work with newspapers suggested by NNA’s Postal Committee of various sizes and preparation on this project.
“Kaizen” is a Japanese term for the practice of continuous improvement in work processes long used by the automotive and other industries. USPS has several such programs underway, including “Lean Six Sigma.”
NNA selected two newspapers in Ohio, one national/regional on pallets and a regional farm tabloid in flats trays. Also selected were a title in North Carolina using bundles in APCs, and newspapers in Montana and North Dakota using sacks or trays. NNA strongly encourages the use of flats trays with green lids and pink tray tags to help service for newspapers not dropped at delivery offices.
We will keep members updated on any findings that may lead to long-term improvements for other newspapers.
2015 PLANT CLOSINGS HALTED
MAY 20 & POSTPONED TO 2016
The closing of mail processing plants for 2015 was halted May 20 until 2016 after an outpouring of complaints by mailers at the National Postal Forum in Anaheim, CA.
Hill and I are members of the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee, which was held in conjunction with the Forum. We were in attendance when new Chief Operating Officer David Williams led off with the announcement that “we have heard the industry loud and clear about stabilizing delivery performance” before announcing the halt.
Unfortunately, much of the damage has already been done to newspaper service, especially in rural areas, by the 2012 round of plant closings and consolidations. Whether the system can be altered to overcome these problems before most newspapers lose their outside-county subscribers to history remains to be seen.
Tonda Rush, NNA chief executive officer, continues to work with Congress to enact meaningful postal legislation to stop the last round now on hold, as she and her Washington staff have in prior years. Unfortunately, partisan divides and the federal deficit have made substantive changes difficult.
NNA has requested that the Postal Regulatory Commission establish a separate “service score” for rural areas to supplement the evaluation it does over USPS success in meeting service standards by mail class and by region. Because urban mail so heavily fills USPS mail volumes, the smaller amount of rural mail is not visible within the averages of each mail class. NNA believes USPS should break out the on-time delivery percentages for rural areas separately in a report to the commission and to Congress.
Postal financial problems were largely caused by prior legislative changes, some taking money from USPS to help the deficit. Even though the Postal Service is “off-budget” as a “quasi-governmental” agency, it is still part of the unified federal budget and the federal government uses postal funds as part of overall national cash management strategies. © Max Heath 2015
MAX HEATH, NNA postal chair, is a postal consultant for AMG | Parade, which also publishes American Profile, Relish and Spry newspaper supplements, and also for Landmark Community Newspapers LLC. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.