Publishers need to sign up for alternate USPS process
By Max Heath, National Newspaper Association Postal Chair
Signups exceed 400 for the Alternate Marked Copy process won by the National Newspaper Association’s Postal Committee on behalf of its members. Not all of those are newspapers, because the creation of this process included the entire Periodicals industry. Signups hit 435 by Feb. 22, and are growing daily.
I want to review the steps involved here and encourage even more publishers to avail themselves of this alternative to marking and submitting a copy of each issue, often including multiple editions. It is not too late to apply. In fact, it’s never too late!
Postmasters with questions can be referred to Postal Bulletin 22451, pages 13-14, dated Sept. 29, 2016. The policy became effective last Nov. 7, and was published in revisions to the online Domestic Mail Manual 207.16.2, “Filing Marked Copy” on that day.
The U.S. Postal Service agreed that the simplification of the submission of marked copies benefited both publishers and USPS.
The new process does not require a publication to submit a marked copy(s) with every mailing. Instead, the Postal Service will request one randomly selected marked copy for review as part of the annual Statement of Ownership review.
The Postal Service will confirm the information provided in the marked copy is accurate and properly represented on applicable postage statements, per the Postal Bulletin.
The alternate process will not eliminate the requirement to provide the correct advertising percentage on postage statements, whether hardcopy or electronically submitted. But it does end the publisher having to take exceptional steps to get the marked copy submitted each issue, with printing often done at distant plants, delivery often in the wee hours to post offices, and office staff not always having the printed paper in hand to mark.
Also, some papers have computer systems summarize the advertising content of each issue, which, when combined with preprinted advertising supplement measurement, can complete the percentage in advance of the press run, as often needed when using paper or electronic submission of the 3541 and USPS Qualification Report (eDoc).
Others make accurate measurement of the advertising percentage from paper or electronic “dummies,” or actual PDFs of each issue transmitted to the printing plant, without actually marking up a printed copy.
(As a reminder, the advertising measurement is designed for computation of advertising and nonadvertising pound prices on Part B of the 3541 Periodicals Postage Statement. It only affects outside-county, or Regular Rate postage.)
EASY STEPS TO GET APPROVED
Start by emailing the PostalOne! Help Desk at [email protected]. Make the subject line: “Request Alternate Marked Copy Review.” Provide the publication’s name, USPS publication number, city and state of the post office where marked copies are currently submitted (likely your “Origin Entry” post office or perhaps an Additional Entry office). Provide start date of the first day of the next month.
Note that each publication in a group or family of newspapers must apply separately. Approval is by title and not by company, because that is how postage is computed and paid.
PostalOne! Help Desk will notify the Business Mail Entry Unit at the origin office that the publisher has enrolled.
The BMEU (often one mailing requirements clerk) at the origin office will not request a marked copy with every issue and will use the alternative verification process.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
In September-October of each year, starting in 2017, your postmaster or clerk will request submission of as many as five marked copies randomly selected from throughout the prior year. A computer program will make the random selection for each publication, so it’s not chosen at the whim of the local post office. There will only be one copy requested at first.
(If you use in-house processes to calculate the percentage, it is not necessary to actually mark a copy for each issue as you go along, but you must save copies of all issues for up to one year so that you can mark the copy in agreement with that submitted on the postage statement.)
If the advertising percentage as checked by the Postal Service for the initial marked copy sampled is less than or equal to 5 percent of the amount of advertising claimed on the 3541, no assessment is applied, and you will be approved for another year without submitting a marked copy of each issue.
If the percentage of the initial marked copy sampled is greater than 5 percent of that claimed on the 3541, an assessment may be applied, and four additional marked copies will be requested, also randomly. If any or those are greater than 5 percent of the amount claimed, an assessment may be applied to additional issues, and may be applied to any un-sampled issues published throughout the year.
Adjustments should be relatively minor if they occur, but indicate that there could be flaws in the measurement system that need to be rectified in coordination with the postmaster.
Any differences in rules interpretation about measurement can be brought to the NNA postal hotline email below or to [email protected].
© Max Heath 2017
MAX HEATH, NNA postal chair, is a consultant for NNA members and Landmark Community Newspapers. He is sponsored by Interlink Software. Email [email protected].