2 discounts can save postage costs for Periodicals

May 1, 2012

By Max Heath


Certain Periodicals Mail postage discounts are less obvious than others. Based on early results from the National Newspaper Association’s recent circulation survey, we are starting an occasional series of refresher columns. To help ensure members get the maximum postage savings possible under rules and regulation changes achieved by NNA, please review for compliance and speak with your software vendor as necessary. This month, two significant discounts are explained.

Exact citation references from the Domestic Mail Manual are provided in boldface italics to show to vendors or postal mail acceptance personnel as required.


Preferred Price Discount

(Limited Circulation)

The Limited Circulation Preferred Price Discount (5 percent) on Page One of PS Form 3541 applies to a Periodical with at least one in-county copy and less than 5,000 outside-county copies. Effective May 2008, and defined in DMM 707.1.1.5. Software should add line B16, parts C, D, E totals X .05 and deduct.

NNA restored this discount in the postal reform law of 2006 after a similar one was eliminated in the 1980s. It appears just below center on Page One of the 3541. Although available to non-profit, classroom, and science of agriculture, the “Limited Circulation” language applies to newspapers and regional magazines, which meet the stipulations.

Because the 5 percent is off the outside-county prices, it can translate to considerable money per-issue and annually, depending on the number of copies (but less than 5,000) outside county, and frequency.

The discount is applicable to many newspapers, large and small, including dailies with little in-county mail, and usually only no more than a few hundred copies outside-county. Newspapers should not be required to find a check box in their postal presort software to declare eligibility. It should be automatically computed by good software if the circulation numbers are within the parameters. If yours does not do that, contact your vendor to request a better program.

This discount applies to the entire issue, and is not limited by lack of in-county copies on certain editions, or weight versions. Some software vendors incorrectly omit the discount from versions mailed outside-county without advertising inserts, with no in-county copies (Part A).


FIRM bundle discount

This discount is perhaps the most overlooked, because it is less obvious than most. This optional preparation in DMM 707.22.3 provides significant discounts when two or more copies to the same delivery address are combined into a bundle. (Remember that strapping or string must run in both directions around a bundle, but should never cover the address block.)

FIRM bundles in-county save 100 percent of the piece price (except one for the bundle) at whatever price level the bundle is traveling. In-county, it would be 6.1 cents savings at Basic carrier route price, 4.5 cents at High-Density and 10.8 cents at 5-digit nonautomation. (FIRM bundles going anywhere do not earn an automation discount, because multiple pieces handled as one cannot be run through any flat-sorting equipment.)

The discount is taken “horizontally” at each piece price line using the “Addressed Pieces” column next to the prices from lines A4-A15. Software reduces the piece count from the “Total Copies” column to the left by all copies in the FIRM bundle except one. Therefore, 10 copies mail to a nursing home in a FIRM bundle would pay one piece price, rather than 10, saving nine X 6.1 cents per piece, or 54.9 cents per week, $28.55 annually for a weekly, and $142.74 dollars for a five-day daily. (And that’s just one scenario.)

Outside county, the piece price is a flat 18.4 cents for the entire bundle at line C28, so you save 18.4 cents for all copies in the bundle except one. The increase in bundle charges for outside-county mail in May 2009 slightly reduced the value of FIRM bundles, depending on the number of copies in the bundle and the level of sortation of that bundle outside-county. (There are no bundle charges on in-county copies, or bundles of mixed in-county/outside-county copies.)

Because outside-county piece prices run as high as 62.5 cents, and no lower than 28.5 cents the 18.4-cent flat price for all copies in the bundle can save anywhere from 10.1 to 44.1 cents per copy. That’s big money when you send multiple copies bundled together to your state press association, advertising agencies or checking bureaus, clipping services, etc.

A key to success is to ensure all copies addressed to the same place have the identical delivery address. For instance, if some copies to a nursing home were sent to a post office box, and some to a street address, then they won’t qualify the same. And spelling and punctuation should be the same.

Most software vendors ask you to make a selection declaring that you want to make up the bundles and take the discount. At least one vendor makes it automatic. Remember, if you claim the discount, you must make up the mail accordingly. FIRM bundles have the words “FIRM XXXXX” (5-digit ZIP code) on the “optional endorsement line” at the top of the label following a series of asterisks. FIRM bundles must always be separate bundles, and not a bundle within a bundle.

Some newspapers mail FIRM bundles to NIE classrooms to remote schools on routes where no town exists to make delivery via single-copy driver cost-feasible. Likewise, single-copy bundles themselves are sometimes mailed to distant stores costly to reach by vehicle. Bundle size is limited to 20 pounds if inside a sack or tray, providing a huge savings multiple on large bundles.

E-mail me if you have questions. © Max Heath 2012


Max Heath, NNA postal chair, is a postal consultant for Publishing Group of America (American Profile, Relish, Spry) and Landmark Community Newspapers, LLC. E-mail maxheath@lcni.com.

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