Complex USPS rules for inserting your own magazines

As publishers seek to offer new publications within their markets, they often ask the NNA Postal Hotline how they may insert their own magazines or other special publications, such as antique or tourist guides, into their mailed newspapers as value-added material.
That can be a tricky question. It’s not always possible. But I’ll attempt to give the best options I can in conjunction with experts at the U.S. Postal Service Pricing and Classification Service Center in New York City. This advice applies only to mailed copies. If you insert publications into copies that aren’t in the mail, like those delivered by home delivery carriers, the Postal Service rules don’t apply.
First, a tutorial. In the 1990s, to clarify some gray areas, the Periodicals Advisory Committee, a joint industry/postal task force, developed a list of “killer characteristics” that simplify the job of mail acceptance people in decision-making. That list is still in effect, and found in Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) Prohibited Material (Periodicals), as italicized below.
Material that contains any one of the following printed items or that is referred to in a component of the Periodicals mailpiece (by the use of one of these items) is ineligible to be mailed at Periodicals prices:
A. A separate price or subscription instructions different from those of the host publication.
B. The word “catalog.”
C. A First-Class Mail, USPS Marketing Mail, Parcel Select, or Package Services permit imprint.
D. An ISBN (International Standard Book Number).
E. An ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) or USPS number different from that of the host publication.
The biggest barrier for a magazine is having its own Periodicals permit, as indicated in E. It’s possible that a startup magazine that was eventually planned to have its own permit could be inserted if other conditions are met.
For instance, it could not have a separate cover price printed on the front page. However, it was stated back then, and now, that a magazine-format publication might add the price after the fact, like retailers do, with a sticker on the cover of copies to be offered for sale over-the-counter.
Rather than stating the exact value of a magazine inside the publication, it was recently suggested that the magazine could use vague language like “worth an amount in the value of (range)…” rather than “sold for $XX.XX.”
Such a magazine owned by the publisher of the newspaper would pay pound price postage on the news and advertising weight, as measured along the same rules of the newspaper. If a magazine was inserted that was owned and published by a third party, that’s OK too, so long as the publisher pays a fee (no matter how small) for the magazines, just as newspapers now do with newspaper-formatted magazines like American Profile, Relish, etc.
But beware: If the newspaper is paid a fee by the third party to insert a magazine, then the total inches of material are counted as advertising, just like a newspaper’s preprinted advertising supplement.
Although a separate Periodicals or Standard Mail (soon to be renamed Marketing Mail, as above) permit is not permitted under the rules above, I asked PCSC Manager Chuck Tricamo whether a magazine bearing such a permit indicia might be inserted under the Ride-Along prices, a new Periodicals rate category that was created later than the “killer characteristics” quoted above.
Yes, he said, so long as the other requirements for the Ride-Along category are met.
Ride-Alongs pay a fixed price, currently 17.5 cents, either in-county or outside-county, with no pound prices.
Ride-Along rules are found in DMM 207.15. Two key passages italicized below.
15.2 Basic Standards
Only one Ride-Along piece may be attached to or enclosed with one copy of Periodicals mail. The Ride-Along price must be paid on each copy in the mailing, not addressed pieces. A Ride-Along piece must be eligible as USPS Marketing Mail and must:
A. Not exceed any dimension of the host publication except when the host publication and the Ride-Along piece are contained in an envelope, polybag, or other complete wrapper.
B. Not exceed 3.3 ounces and must not exceed the weight of the host publication.
C. Not obscure the title of the publication or the address label.
The main takeaway here is that the magazine cannot exceed 3.3 ounces. to qualify as a Ride-Along. That’s not a lot of pages. Nor can it weigh more than the host publication.
15.4 Marking
The marking “Ride-Along Enclosed” must be placed on or in the host publication if it contains a Ride-Along enclosure or attachment. If placed on the host publication, the marking must be set in type no smaller than any used in the required “POSTMASTER: Send change of address…” statement. If placed in the identification statement, the marking must meet the applicable standards. The marking must not be on or in copies without a Ride-Along.
Newspapers must adhere to this requirement to mark notice of enclosure, although the type size requirements for that marking are not that large.
I realize this column could raise more questions than it answers, depending on how each newspaper approaches the creation of monthly or quarterly value-added content in the form of magazines for inclusion in the newspaper, and often for distribution or sales separately.
It is difficult to cover all iterations. If you have an application that doesn’t fit those outlined here, and you are an NNA member, email me.

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