The U.S. Postal Service has not made it official yet, but the implementation of 2015 postage rates on April 26 should ease the pain for newspapers surprised by a postage increase in January.

The increase hit publishers who had been entering Periodicals mail at the new USPS transportation hubs, where direct (5-digit, carrier-route, or mix of both) containers destined for local post offices within the territory of a recently-closed mail processing plant can be dropped for speedier delivery. The National Newspaper Association recommends flats trays (tubs), not sacks, for speediest handling.

The hubs were created by the Postal Service after the National Newspaper Association testified before the Postal Regulatory Commission that the hubs would be needed to avoid unnecessary complications when processing plants closed. The biggest value is moving those “direct” newspaper containers from one 5-digit office to another within the same territory of the former Sectional Center Facility, or SCF. But many members are located at a hub, or print and drop there.

USPS has committed to setting up a hub for this purpose wherever a plant is taken out of service. Closure of 82 more processing plants is expected this calendar year, including several in Indiana.

The surprise came in January when newspapers using those hubs saw an unannounced postage increase. That was because a grace period to use the previous SCF plant discounts expired and the new rate had not kicked in yet.

NNA Postal Committee Chair Max Heath appealed to USPS that Periodicals copies dropped at the hubs should still earn a Sectional Center Facility discount because they avoid using postal transportation to a more distant plant. The Postal Service has informally confirmed that the SCF discount will be recognized. Publication of the new rate will occur only through PostalOne!, the USPS Business Mail Acceptance software system, he said.

“This is an extremely important discount for us because the contraction of the mail processing network puts so much of our subscriber mail in jeopardy,” Heath said. “We must be able to use these hubs to maximum advantage by entering flats tubs with copies destinating for a local post office within the hub area. Because entering at the hub is a classic form of drop-shipping, publishers should earn the discounted rate. I am glad to learn that a fix for this problem is now in the works.”

National Newspaper Association