No postal increase for newspapers in 2016


National Newspaper Association report

Newspapers welcomed the news that postage for periodicals mail won’t increase in 2016.

Although the U.S. Postal Service filed a price increase for its shipping services products for next year, the National Newspaper Association notes the filing does not include a price increase for either periodicals or first-class mail.

The Postal Regulatory Commission will review the prices for Commercial Priority Mail before they are scheduled to become effective on Jan. 17.

Since there are no changes in periodicals mail pricing, the postage statement (PS Form 3541) will remain unchanged, said Max Heath, postal chair for the National Newspaper Association.

Some postmasters or clerks could mistakenly think newspapers have to change forms, but the change will only affect packages and international mail, Heath said.

In other postal news, the National Newspaper Association reports that the long fight between the newspaper industry and Valassis Inc. over the direct-mail company’s special postage discounts from the U.S. Postal Service appears to have ended quietly.

Valassis filed a report in November declaring it carried out no mailings eligible for the special discount. The filing follows a $100,000 penalty Valassis paid to the Postal Service in September.

The conflict between newspapers and its long-time insert customer began in April 2012 when the Postal Service requested a special contract rate for Valassis designed to pull advertising inserts out of Sunday newspapers and into a new weekend Valassis direct mail package.

Tonda Rush, chief executive officer and general counsel for the National Newspaper Association, said if the program had launched and mailed 1 million qualifying mail pieces, Valassis could have earned a 22 percent to 34 percent standard mail postage discount.

The newspaper industry fought the proposal, even taking it to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Valassis launched programs in May 2013 in Atlanta, Phoenix and Wash­ing­ton, but mailings that year did not qualify under the agreement with the Postal Service.

The National Newspaper Association said there were no mailings by Valassis in 2014 or 2015.

NNA President Chip Hutch­eson, publisher of the Princeton (Kentucky) Times-Leader, said the $100,000 Valassis fine was a fitting end to an unfortunate chapter.

“We want to think of this whole experience as an episode of recession fever at the Postal Service,” Hutcheson said. “They were facing grim markets, as we all were, and grasping at straws.”

The fever ignited this idea of picking winners and losers in the advertising marketplace for the sake of maybe getting in some new mail volume, he said.

NNA didn’t think it would work, and it didn’t, he said.

“So USPS got $100,000 and spent unreported thousands in lawyers’ and analysts’ time,” Hutcheson said.

The newspaper industry and Valassis spent heavily to advance their various viewpoints, but in the end, there was no new mail. Newspapers were undoubtedly hurt in those test markets, and Valassis couldn’t come up with the advertisers.

“There is a moral to this story that every parent knows: Don’t play favorites in the family,” Hutcheson said. “We are glad this chapter is over, and we intend to continue to work with Valassis to develop its markets and with USPS to improve the mail.”