By Max Health
National Newspaper Association

The National Newspaper Association tries to reinforce best practices to newspapers so they can maximize the quality of delivery in a world where the number of postal processing plants appears headed for further reduction.

The U.S. Postal Service plans to close 82 more plants in 2015 since Congress failed to come up with a relief package for arbitrary charges it levied in 2006 to help the federal deficit at mailer expense, among other things. Five of those plants reportedly are in Indiana.

Full-service IMb holds promise for best delivery

A new tool available to at least some newspapers is the shift from Basic to Full-Service IMb (Intelligent Mail barcode).

NNA opposed mandatory Full-Service as a requirement since not all its members could use it for one reason or another and because the paucity of meaningful data from USPS from mail pieces that are not sorted on machines was a disincentive.

The U.S. Postal Service is trying to improve the data issue, and we are hopeful of progress in 2015. Even though the Postal Regulatory Commission properly ruled it a price increase in late 2013 so USPS declined to implement it as mandatory with the January 2014 rates, Full-Service IMb is very much alive and relevant to solving future delivery problems.

It can be useful now as a delivery tool within the Postal Service network.

For instance, NNA’s Publishers’ Auxiliary, a two-fold machinable tabloid, is mailed as Full-Service now.

While the extra discount is a miniscule one-tenth of a cent, its value is the tracking capability for individual pieces and containers from entry through delivery.

That can be even more valuable for weekly newspapers than monthly trade publications, however.

Joanie Griffin, publisher of the Wallis (Texas) News-Review west of Houston, reports improvement in delivery of her two-fold broadsheet newspaper.

She converted to electronic documentation (eDoc) after joining the first of two webinars conducted so far by Brad Hill, president of Interlink Software and a Mailers

Technical Advisory Committee representative serving NNA in Washington.

Then Griffin moved up another notch to Full-Service IMb (eDoc is a requirement), and with help from Interlink staff and postal personnel, it operable within a couple of weeks.

The Postal Service relies increasingly on this tool to measure service, so having it operable has psychological as well as practical value.

Even if machines do not scan pieces, the tray barcodes and other details of the mailing help track progress in the network. And even if you can’t “major” in its reporting capabilities, the Postal Service can, thus providing the value.

Refresher on ways maximizing delivery

Although I’ve written about this previously, let me quickly review the best practices list for delivery quality for newcomers or as a refresher.

• Exceptional Dispatch to post offices within your trade area. Your entry postmaster approves, there is no pre-verification, and you deliver any time you want, earning DDU-discount on carrier-routed copies. This rule applies only to Periodicals and not Standard Mail (DMM 207.28.3).

• Unsacked bundles of up to 40 pounds each may be dropped to your entry post office and Exceptional Dispatch offices. No wasted time and money to make up trays or for USPS to open. This applies to both Periodicals (DMM 207.23.4.2) and Standard Mail shoppers (DMM 203.3.10).

• Use Flats Trays instead of sacks. Periodicals have had the option to prepare mail destined outside DDUs in white tubs (technically flats trays) since 2006. Green lids are required by rule, but many post offices prefer them unlidded for nesting in trucks leaving their towns. (NNA is working on a rules change to allow that in the DMM for intra-SCF destinations.) Supply is adequate. Flats Trays are a First-Class container and often move in the same mail stream on trucks (DMM 207.22.7).

• Overnight drop policy at entry office. A policy between NNA and USPS since 2009 allows drops overnight, after Critical Entry Time or before CET the next morning, for Periodicals mailing no more than 750,000 copies per year. Next-day delivery standard is assured for mail entered before CET, but this broadens that. eDoc is required. Contact NNA for help.

• Use Hubs as either entry point or hand-off hub for direct containers, as explained above.

• Full-Service IMb may improve attention to and provide delivery tracking for your mail, as mentioned above.

Max Heath, National Newspaper Association postal chairman, is a postal consultant for Athlon Media Group and Landmark Community Newspapers. Email Heath at maxheath@lcni.com.