Newspapers get ‘warnings’ of future penalties for non-compliance with Full-Service IMb rules
January 13, 2016
By Max Heath
Newspapers across the country that have converted to electronic documentation and then Full-Service Intelligent Mail barcoding are reporting confusion over U.S. Postal Service warnings of penalties in effect starting July 1, 2016, for being out of compliance with a multitude of internal measurements for providing Full-Service status.
Although intended to be helpful, many of the complicated requirements are not always understood by operators of newspaper software and require detailed help and analysis from their presort circulation software providers. And because so many newspapers rely on their printers to provide those presort mail services, operators can be further removed from any involvement with what is actually happening, and understandably so.
The National Newspaper Association is holding a seminar for mailers March 16 in conjunction with its Community Newspaper Leadership Summit in Washington, with a half-day session at USPS headquarters that is geared just for third-party printers and mailers. Please consider attending if you are a provider, or encourage your provider to attend with a copy of this column or other promotional material that can be found in this issue.
With the help of Brad Hill, NNA’s electronic expert on the USPS Mailers Technical Advisory Committee and president of Interlink Software, we will try to explain some of whys and wherefores of the warnings.
Three points to be aware of for background:
1. The penalty involved is miniscule if a mailer fails to be in compliance, consisting of the loss of the one-tenth of 1-cent additional piece discount available to Periodicals mailers using Full-Service IMb.
2. Moving to Full-Service IMb is optional, not mandatory, thanks to the work of NNA in filing comments and the agreement of the Postal Regulatory Commission that mandatory imposition would be considered a price increase. USPS declined to make it mandatory under those circumstances.
3. NNA has encouraged its use so long as not mandatory because it can lead to free electronic Address Change Service notices and provide improved tracking and “visibility” of newspapers within the mail processing network. That is still our position, despite the frustration caused by the so-called “warning” e-mails.
What is happening now
PostalOne! database operatives, mostly contractors that work for the Postal Service, are producing reports on a variety of the myriad software requirements for Full-Service IMb mailers. These go from headquarters to the various USPS district offices for Business Mail Entry. Then top-level BME staff members are contacting newspapers with word of errors that, if not corrected, could lead to “penalties” starting July 1. (Note: The deadline had been April 1, but was moved forward three months. Depending on mailer feedback, deadlines often are pushed forward.)
Community newspaper circulation managers or clerks are uncertain how to respond to these error notices because they involve technical details many of them are unaware of. And that’s mostly as it should be. Operators should not necessarily have to know all these intricacies, which are highly technical.
By/For error report
There is much confusion about a requirement for proper By/For information in the reports analyzed as part of the Business Mailer Scorecard within PostalOne!. This information exists in situations where commercial printing plants mail newspapers for another party. The “By” is the mailing agent, and the “For” is the Periodical, or “mail owner.”
Trouble is that a large number of newspapers, probably still a majority, mail their own newspapers. Therefore, the “By/For” has to be identical. But PostalOne! kicks it back, because it does not believe the By and the For can be the same entity. So the kickback shows up as a major error (7140) in the Scorecard. However, mailings of fewer than 5,000 copies are to be exempt, which covers a lot of community newspapers. Unfortunately, that exemption is not automatically applied to all mailings as it should. This is a problem that comes from USPS designing its software to fit the large direct mail and commercial printing industry, rather than us. We are working on it.
Today there are two ways to eliminate this error. An account can be flagged as a mail owner by PostalOne! Help Desk or district BME staff, causing this check to be bypassed. The other option is to configure postal software to identify only the By in eDoc, omitting the mail owner. PostalOne! allows this, but only for mailings of less than 5,000 copies.
Non-Identical barcode report
USPS requires Full-Service IMb users to ensure no individual mailpiece barcode is reused within 45 days of mailing. Technical failure in this regard also results in an error report that disqualifies the mailing for Full-Service discounts. One tip that should help: If a newspaper serves as a central software hub for multiple titles, as in some regional groups, it should be sure to have separate MIDs (Mailer IDs) and CRIDs (Customer Registration IDs) for each publication. Then the individual piece will look different for each of the customer publications. © Max Heath 2016
MAX HEATH, NNA Postal chair, is a postal consultant for Athlon Media Group (Parade, American Profile, Relish, Spry Living, TV Times and Athlon Sports magazines) and Landmark Community Newspapers LLC. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.