Periodical best practices to save postage under 2018 prices

As outlined last month, community newspapers once again have an inflationary price increase under the 2006 postal reform act, passed with the National Newspaper Association’s help, and with several newspaper rule improvements.
But that could be the last one that merely adjusts for inflation, as the Postal Regulatory Commission is awaiting a decision on the current postal reform bill in Congress before ruling on how to handle future price increases under the mandated 10-year review of the 2006 law. The U.S. Postal Service wants the rate cap dropped, and it lost more than $2.5 billion last year, so increases could worsen in 2019.
For now, however, rates continue to enjoy the decade of modest increase achieved in the 2006 legislation. In-county mailers continued their good luck with most rates up at or below inflation of 1.9 percent.
But outside-county got tough love in the form of higher sack/tray prices, bundle and per-piece prices, even though pound rates were kept flat to help minimize the effect. So, what should change?
1. DDU entry should continue and expand. This discount for dropping mail under Exceptional Dispatch (DMM 207.28.3) to post offices with your transportation was granted in 2001 after rejected proposals by NNA in 1994 and 1997, and it was finally rescued by Anita Bizzotto, then postal vice president of pricing and product design. The 8125 Drop Shipment Clearance Documents are not required, as in Standard (now Marketing) Mail. You can drop copies any time at your own risk.
And you can drop DDU mail in unsacked/untrayed bundles up to 40 pounds each, whether in-county or out (avoiding container charge), thanks to another rule change won by NNA in 2004.
In-county pound DDU price spread at Line A1 will be a .1 cent better than now, with total savings of 4.7 cents per pound entered at the office of delivery.
Outside-county basic carrier route piece price (six-124 pieces per route) only increases 1.5 percent. But if mailed from your origin post office to a 5-digit office nearby through a Hub or SCF, a sack/tray price of $3.35, up 14.6 percent, will be charged. That adds 14 cents per piece for 24 pieces, the minimum volume.
Requester newspapers, which often palletize with 100 percent coverage of local offices, pay requested pieces at the in-county price and non-requested at outside-county. Good news here is that pallet prices for Carrier Route/5-Digit do not increase from their current $3.046 price.
2. End most “skin sacks” or low-volume trays. Although many newspapers have long employed software features allowing them to make as few as one piece per container, that’s been less affordable since the institution of sack/tray charges in 2010.
But large increases in 2018 might dictate the end of sending 23 and fewer pieces per tray now that most costs will go up by double-digit percentages. Software presort by the minimum 24 might hurt delivery in some instances, which makes it even more imperative that newspapers use flats trays (white tubs) rather than sacks.
My advice is: create container sorts under 24, when necessary, but just understand that you are paying higher prices for them. I often see some small container numbers that look inadvisable when reviewing sortation stats for members.
3. Improve address coding accuracy. Newspapers often fail to earn the lowest carrier-route prices, even in their primary market, when addresses fail to “code” to the 9-digit ZIP using presort software applying address-checking technology. Errors can be attributable to bad info from the subscriber, misspelling, or failure to enter using the right technique for multi-unit buildings.
Remember, the bottom line of an address is CITY/STATE/ZIP. The second line up, or address line, is the key item. Everything above that line is superfluous for address-matching purposes. Designations like APT, UNIT, STE, etc. should be part of the second line up, and [BDH1] should only wrap above the address line when there is not enough room.
Lookup aides include “Lookup ZIP Code” on USPS.com, even if you know it. A check might yield the proper format, give the 9-digit and carrier route, and correct spelling or multi-unit building designations.
Another simple way is to use the WhitePages.com lookup for the person or business in the town or even state. Often, you can get a good deliverable address that way. I use both from time to time.
Every piece moved from 5-digit to carrier-route In-county saves 5-6 cents per issue. If the piece had been at 3-digit, it would save 7.7 cents and if at Basic level, nearly 10 cents per issue.
Outside-County, coding a piece to carrier-route could save from 10.4 cents to 18.5 cents per issue, depending on whether six or more go to the 5-digit or 3-digit. And these savings assume Machinable Flats barcoded prices. It gets even worse if you are in the Nonmachinable category, with gaps of 19.5 cents-32.4 cents, even if barcoded.
4. Use FIRM bundles to the same address. This savings has long been available. Ensure your presort software is set correctly to allow making up FIRM bundles of two or more pieces to the same delivery address.
This applies in-county, where you might have multiple copies to the same nursing home, school or business, etc., and to outside-county, where you might have multiple copies to your press association, governmental agencies, clipping bureaus, etc. Ensure that all address lines are identical.
You only pay the piece price one time for all copies in the bundle. The in-county discount shows under “Addressed Pieces” column at line A18 of Form 3541, which should be less than the Total Copies column to the left. Outside-county, the discount is taken at line C32 under identical columns. © Max Heath 2017

Max Heath, NNA postal chair, is a postal consultant for Landmark Community Newspapers, LLC, and NNA members. He is sponsored by Interlink Software. Email maxheath@lcni.com.