Newspapers Face Softened Requirement in 2014 for Intelligent Mail Barcodes

By: Press Release | NNA

WASHINGTON—Newspapers claiming automation mailing rates for their Periodicals newspapers or Standard Mail flats not eligible for Enhanced Carrier Route rates face new hurdles on Jan. 26, 2014, as the U.S. Postal Service’s mandates for Full-Service Intelligent Mail Barcodes (IMbs) kick in. But National Newspaper Association President Merle Baranczyk said NNA’s efforts had built in new options for many newspapers to avoid the full impact.

USPS this week announced that the new Full-Service IMbs would be required for all mail seeking automation discounts. The first step toward its program to achieve greater service accountability began in January 2013, when mailers began using the Basic IMbs. The next step requires individual numbering on mailpieces, sack and tray tags and pallet placards so that USPS can see where the mail is throughout mail processing and delivery. Those individual numbers must also be provided to USPS through electronic documentation, with some exceptions.

Baranczyk said NNA had petitioned the Postal Service to make numerous changes to help newspapers adapt to USPS’s digital conversions.

“We asked for a longer period for the conversion, which USPS did not grant. But it did create options for newspapers whose mailing software cannot handle the requirements, and relaxed the requirement to put a different individual number on each newspaper. We are gratified that USPS heard our concerns on this count,” he said.

NNA Postal Committee Chair Max Heath and Brad Hill, president of Interlink, a mail software company, said NNA’s conversation with USPS on this issue had been long and complex. Heath and Hill represent NNA on the USPS Mailers Technical Advisory Committee, where the details of many USPS changes are aired and discussed before implementation.

“This change is going to perplex a lot of our members and add new expense, which I regret,” Heath said. “But the tide has turned and using the mail is going to be more complex for us. There is no avoiding it. I am glad to see, however, that USPS is giving us some relief on the most stringent requirements. We also will see some benefits over the long run, including better information on mail delays. Newspapers that make the conversion also will finally be rid of the bothersome 55-cent charge for address updates, and get them more timely. The change-of-address data will be provided electronically, for free, if publishers have capable software.”

Hill noted that Interlink had facilitated the process by offering Mail.XML software to its competitors that would enable them to ease small newspapers’ access to USPS digital systems. Mail.XML allows an electronic transmission of the postage statement and USPS Qualification Report. Heath and Hill also negotiated for an Internet-based solution for newspapers unable to use postal software. But NNA is asking that all vendors serving community newspapers make the Mail.XML option available by 2014.

Heath will cover the requirements in more detail in his Postal Tips column in the June issue of Publishers’ Auxiliary.

Among the elements of the new USPS rule are:

· A requirement for electronically submitted mailing statements, either through a newspaper’s mailing software or by the Internet solution, Postage Wizard, on the USPS Business Customer Gateway website, if a mailing is under 10,000 pieces.

· A requirement for application of individual mailpiece identifiers on each mailed newspaper claiming automation rates, but mailings under 10,000 pieces do not need individual piece identifiers—only on containers—and must separate mailings by container by weight and price, as is common practice when zoning inserts.

· Ultimately, information will flow back to mailers on where mail is within the postal system, though these data for most Periodicals will be available only for containers and not individual copies and USPS has not yet accelerated its systems to provide the data yet.

Printers that prepare mailing statements for their customers will be required to meet the new mandates as well as to identify both the mail owner—usually the publisher—and the mail preparer. However, for mailings fewer than 5,000 pieces, the identification of the mail owner will not be required.

Heath emphasized that the rules will apply only to automation discounted mail, and will not be applicable to carrier-route sorted, delivery-unit entered Periodicals nor to saturation, high-density, or basic-price Standard mail flats.

The intent of the new rules, according to USPS, is to provide greater “visibility” within the mail system for the institution, which is required to report to regulators on achievement of service standards.

“Although newspapers will likely never see the full benefit of this new system, we will get some benefit,” Heath said. “As USPS changes and the facilities we use grow further away and service gets tougher, having some visibility into where mail containers get stuck may help us to diagnose and cure more of our ills. Meanwhile, our core mail use in local markets will remain unaffected by these rules for now.

“I do want to emphasize that having the right postal software and a company that can help a mailer through the bumps and bruises in this new rule is going to be pretty important,” he said. “We are in the middle of this digital transition. It is not going to go away. It is going to go forward.”

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