New Year’s resolutions for newspaper mail

January 2, 2013

By Max Heath | NNA Postal Committee Chair

To improve delivery, cost-savings, and
increase subscriptions
“Life is difficult,” as Scott Peck famously said in “The Road Less Traveled.”

For those of us who deal regularly with the U.S. Postal Service, that great truth stands out. And it gets more difficult as USPS faces declining revenue, high forced payments to the treasury and the resulting need to keep cutting costs and service.  
Nevertheless, the National Newspaper Association, under astute leadership of Chief Executive Officer Tonda Rush, who doubles as chief Capitol Hill lobbyist, perseveres on your behalf. The board reaffirmed its position on maintaining six-day delivery, among other items, to fight for the interest of community newspapers in the mail at its October board meeting.
As postal chair, I want to suggest some New Year’s resolutions to remind you of protections NNA has in place to maintain your delivery, discounts, and circulation growth.

First, delivery protections,
as processing plants near you close and mail moves
to distant plants
 Use Exceptional Dispatch privilege, available in DMM 707.28.3, to deliver carrier-route sorted copies to post offices in your primary circulation territory of most importance to reader and advertisers.  Approval only comes from your “original-entry” post office where you have your Periodicals permit. There are cost-effective ways of doing this, piggy-backing with single-copy drops to those towns, drop by employee living there, via truck en route back from printer, contracting with commuter, etc. You are entitled to Delivery Unit discount at lines A1 or A2 and line A17 on your 3541 postage statement for in-county copies, and lines B1 and B12 outside-county. Such drops do not have to be in containers, but may be delivered in bundles only.
Use “old-hub handoffs” where small postal processing plants are closed, for 5-digit and carrier-route sorted copies. These can keep the same delivery in your secondary “trade area” where subscribers want your paper on a timely basis but you can’t afford to drive them there based on quantities.  How do you do this? By reminding the manager of the post office or former “plant” that NNA has an agreement with USPS Mail Processing that “direct” containers will be handed off from an inbound postal truck to other trucks still using that hub for transportation connections. In some case, the hub may be relocated. So-called “working mail” in 3-digit or SCF containers will not be worked until it gets to the newly-designated plant farther away, unfortunately.
Use electronic subscriptions to replace print subscriptions to distant locations more than a few states away. NNA worked for 4.5 years to get e-subs approved to count on your postal Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation, PS Form 3526. It stated in postal fiscal year 2012, and the form should be improved before September 2013. Not everyone wants to read news online, but many people of all ages will. For those who don’t want to switch, they will likely have to settle for slower delivery. You can sell e-subs as low as 30 percent of your basic price per term to that area.
Use flats trays (DMM 707.20.4) with green lids and pink tray tags to improve regional and distant delivery. This change was gained for Periodicals by NNA effective October 2005 for three sortations, and in 2006 it was expanded to all sortations. Sacks are harder to make up and harder to identify and unload in postal plants. The flats tray with green lid is a First-Class container. One sortation new in 2005 goes on First-Class truck trips. All newspapers should eliminate the use of sacks and move to flats trays. When enough newspapers are proven switched, NNA will file for a price discount for the more efficient cost of tubs.

Resolutions to save money
Use Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) effective Jan. 27, 2013, in order to keep automation discounts. These apply notably to prices paid in Part C of your PS Form 3541, but also to copies in-county not sorted to carrier routes. Work with your vendor to enable printers, or in some cases upgrade printers. Most inkjet, laser and thermal printers should print IMb effectively. And some vendors are able to print on Epson and Okidata dot matrix printers. NNA is still fighting to avoid mandatory “full-service IMB” in 2014. But until then, convert to the new barcode if at all possible.
Use FIRM bundle discount to save the per-piece cost of all copies in the bundle except one. The discount, automatic in some presort software, has to be selected from a menu and “turned on” in others. In-county, you pay a lower piece price when the number of “Addressed Pieces” is lower than the number of “Total Copies” at any of lines A4-A15, indicating the FIRM bundle discount is taken. Only one piece price for the entire bundle is multiplied times the “Price.” Outside-county, the new flat bundle price is 18.9 cents (line C28) Jan. 27, 2013. That price is much lower than any piece price above it, and it also applies to just the bundle and not each piece. You must remember to flag FIRM bundles so that your mailroom creates them, separate from all other bundles.

Resolution to
Increase circulation
Use nonsubscriber entitlement to send “sample” copies to non-subscribers with attractive offer to subscribe. You may send up to 10 percent of your total in-county subscriber copies in a calendar year to nonsubscribers using the low in-county prices. Above that, you may still send nonsubscriber copies, but paying the outside-county price, as long as your total free copies are less than half your paid copies.
My Pub Aux columns are available at on this item and all others above to explain each in more detail. © Max Heath 2013

MAX HEATH, NNA Postal chair, is a postal consultant for Publishing Group of America (American Profile, Relish, & Spry) and Landmark Community Newspapers LLC. Email

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