Postal Q & A: Value of IMb? Sampling problems

We are recapping recent questions to the NNA postal hotline shared for the benefit of others without identifying the newspaper( s) involved. 

Q: We’re about to switch to having our printer handle mailing labels. We’ve been printing our own, complete with intelligent barcodes, and applying the labels to our newspapers. The company printing our newspapers has a press attachment to print the labels directly onto the newspapers, without using stick-on labels. But their press attachment can’t reproduce our intelligent barcodes. We mail 1,300 in-county and 100 out of county five days a week. What kind of discount will I lose by dropping the intelligent barcodes?

A: The discount is minuscule. Just one-tenth of a cent per piece. So, for you the maximum saving is $1.40 per issue for eligible pieces (with a good IMb). For five days, that’s $364 a year. The real value is in the availability of qualifying newspapers to get free Address Change Notices electronically, ending the repetitive charges of about 59 cents each for the yellow stickers that come back via manual handling, and very slow and delayed at that. But that may be harder to do if the software is being operated remotely.
That growing trend of outsourcing mailing is a negative in many respects, but I know the financial pressures to make such changes have greatly materialized. However, since you only have 100 outside-county mail copies, the number of address change notices is likely to be smaller than a lot of other newspapers. Bottom line: it may not be that worthwhile to you.
That said, the plant is using an inkjet machine, which can be programmed to send a printable IMb with the label. Many such operations do that. The plant needs to get caught up and offer this service to their customers. IMb is a gateway to some other advantages, including track-and-trace for delivery and acceptance of mail without much manual verification, called Seamless Acceptance.

Q: I have a publisher who wants to use the sampling rule to do a one-time, all-county distribution to share a COVID-19 four-page insert. My understanding is that the 10% rule applies to his yearlong accumulated distribution so he could do the project he wants. His regional postmaster reads 7.9 as saying he can only sample 10% of the circulation of one issue at a time. Am I wrong?  Can you share or direct me to something that the publisher can share with the postmaster to correct her misinterpretation?

A: The language could not be any more clear, as pulled from a Customer Support Ruling PS-122, shown below for reference underlined in italics. The insert would have to be part of a regular issue. 
This CSR discusses the standards for mailing nonsubscriber copies at in-county prices: “Domestic Mail Manual (DMM), provides that during a calendar year, the total number of nonsubscriber copies mailed at in-county prices may not exceed 10% of the number of the subscribers’ copies of the publication mailed at in-county prices.

Q: I want to sample my twin weekly with only 300 in-county mail, the above-reference publisher said. I have another with 1,400 in-county mail.

A: In this case, you need to do a one-time merged issue of both titles, using two nameplates and including the ID statements of both newspapers inside. The sampling entitlement at in-county prices would cover the active residential households mentioned that are needed for mailing. USPS has been liberal in application of exceptions to rules during the current pandemic, which requires unusual measures. Do this with local postmaster notification. Nothing should prevent.

Q: Instead of mailing our shopper edition, can we mail a periodical sample to our entire shopper mailing list? We would of course report it as a nonsubscriber sample. This saves postage dollars.

A: Certainly, you can do that. It is even a good strategy to do as often as rules allow to promote subscriptions. Just bear in mind that you can only sample 10% of your in-county subscriber copies in a calendar year using the lower in-county prices. You would pay regular rates after that, which could be lower depending on average shopper cost now. Multiply your in-county subscribers by the number of issues and then take 10% of that number to project the number allowed at in-county price. Your greater frequency could give you the possibility of doing this several times a year. As a courtesy, I would just advise postmasters what to expect.
Remember, over a 12-month period, your paid copies by all methods must exceed the number of total copies distributed by all means (50% + 1 paid rule). Another strategy for saving shopper postage might be to look at any ZIPs that lack a preprint load and chop circulation that isn’t profitable to you, if that exists. 

Max Heath, NNA postal committee, is a postal consultant for Landmark Community Newspapers LLC, and NNA members. Email