Circulation departments now can opt out of the requirement to provide marked copies (delineating advertising and news) with every mailing of a newspaper edition.

The U.S. Postal Service rule change is the culmination of two-years of effort by the National Newspaper Association (NNA), which announced the change to its members last month.

Current postal rules require periodicals publications to supply USPS with a copy of each edition of each issue whenever they present the mailings. The copies must be marked by hand to indicate the paid advertising percentage, which is mailed at a higher postage rate than news content.  The requirement was instituted by a 19th Century Congress and carried forth into today’s highly digital world, where the hand-markings and submission have slowed processes for both publishers and postmasters, said Max Heath, postal chair for NNA.

Now, publishers can enroll with USPS for an annual verification. Upon acceptance, publishers may cease to present the “marked copy” of each edition before that issue’s mailing is accepted by the postmaster.

Instead, Heath explained, post offices next September will randomly select one issue from the year and ask publishers to present only that single marked copy. If the marked copy matches the postage statement’s claimed advertising total presented with that issue’s mailing, the publisher is cleared for the rest of the year.  If the copy fails to properly account for the correct amount of advertising within a 5 percent rate of understatement, further tests will be conducted.

“Time is money, and in today’s electronic world, many of our members were doing everything online except for this one burdensome step,” said NNA President Matthew Paxton IV, publisher of The News-Gazette, Lexington, Kentucky.

“Postmaster General Megan Brennan and her team wisely recognized an opportunity for all parties to avoid this unnecessary compliance procedure so we could devote our time to building our businesses. We think this new process may take a little time to become rote for our circulation people. But in the end, it makes eminent sense to sign up now and start saving some time.”

Newspapers will still have to determine the advertising percentage, a chore that some software programs can do automatically. The advertising percentage will still be required on Form 3541, which is presented with your copies to the post office.

We’ve heard from a few people that making this change doesn’t save much time, given that you’re going to the post office every day to get mail,” Heath said. “Where you’ll see the difference is when you convert your newspaper to electronic documentation. Then, removing the bother of having to physically mark up each page and take it to the post office will make more sense.

“If you’re not moving toward electronic documentation for filing your weekly/daily postage statements, I hope you’re considering it. Taking this leap really will save you time over the long run.  More important, it is going to be the key to our ability to track reliable mail service.”

To start the annual verification process, email the USPS PostalOne! Help Desk at postalone@usps.gov or call (800) 522-9085, where you’ll select option 3, then option 6. You’ll be required to complete an Excel form providing information about your newspaper. If you have more than one newspaper, you’ll need a separate form for each one.

After completing the enrollment, you’ll have to wait until your postmaster or Business Mail Entry Unit contacts you to confirm your start date under the new system. On that start date, you no longer will have to submit the marked copy with each mailing, but remember to retain a marked copy of each issue so you’ll be ready for the September 2017 verification.

As Heath points out, if everything goes well, you won’t hear from you postmaster until the following September.