Marked copy requirement set to change to annual sample process

Readers of this column might recall that we thought that the National Newspaper Association had gotten relief some months ago from the requirement to submit a marked copy with each issue of the Periodical newspaper, only to find that change slip from our grasp. 

Now, a firm proposal is in the hands of the NNA Postal Committee, and if tests of the procedure last month work as well as expected, we stand to see, finally, the relief of the burdensome and time-consuming process of this submission. The new “Alternate Marked Copy” process would follow the annual Statement of Ownership filing by Oct. 1 each year.

ADVERTISING PERCENTAGE MUST STILL BE COMPUTED EACH ISSUE 

I want to remind all publishers and circulation managers that this change will not affect the need to accurately report the actual advertising percentage of each issue, including editions with various weights and percentages, of Run-Of-Press and preprinted advertising inserts on PS Form 3541, the Periodicals Postage Statement.

Many newspapers are now able to compute their ROP advertising from electronic advertising makeup systems and keep records of regular supplements’ linage and weight according to samples of those page counts most commonly run by their different advertisers. This allows a quick computation of the advertising percentage for entering on the 3541. 

What would be eliminated is the requirement to physically mark the printed copy after the press run and show the calculations on the front page of the issue, and then get it to the post office with the mailing. Printing at distant plants during the night and delivery to post offices early in the morning or at other times of the day or week when the newspaper office is closed has created a great deal of frustration for community newspapers across our land.

The advertising percentage affects only the outside-county pound prices paid, either advertising or non-advertising, with advertising pound prices zoned per distance sent, and non-advertising by entry point. With many papers losing distant subscribers because of a combination of poor mail delivery and shift to electronic alternatives, the work is much ado about less and less, frankly. 

That said, it is an integral part of the postage computation process, and must be honestly reported.

ENROLLMENT REQUIRED FOR ALTERNATE PROCESS

The latest proposal to eliminate most marked copies comes with a requirement to enroll in order to take advantage of the alternative to per-issue reporting. It is not mandatory, and publishers of newspapers or magazines who wish to continue the submission of per-issue marked copies are free to do that.

To enroll in the “Alternate Marked Copy” process, publishers must email the PostalOne! Help Desk at postalone@ usps.gov. Required info will include the publisher, the publication, US PS Publication Number, and the city/state/ZIP where the marked copies are currently submitted.

The Help Desk will send an acknowledgment email to the mailer’s contact with a copy to the District Manager BME (Business Mail Entry) and also notify the post office where your mail is entered that you have enrolled. The Help Desk will maintain a list of publications enrolled in the alternative process on the BMA webpage. 

From that point forward, the BME clerks at your origin post office will not request a marked copy with every issue and will use the alternative verification process.

The new alternate process won’t kick in fully in time to help publishers during this year’s SOO Review, but it should help going forward into 2017 and beyond. 

HOW IT WOULD WORK 

1. Once enrolled, no marked copies would be filed until after the SOO review in October 2017. The U .S. Postal Service may request the publication submit a single randomly selected marked copy (could be from any issue in prior 12 months or from whatever period has elapsed since enrollment). 

2. The BME clerk would verify the information provided is accurate and matches that submitted on relevant postage statement(s). 

3. If it is determined that the marked copy advertising percentage is less than or equal on the matching postage statement – with a 5 percent margin of error allowed – the verifi cation passes and no further action is taken. 

4. If it is determined that the marked copy advertising percentage variance is greater than 5 percent of that reported on the postage statement, the initial verification fails. Four additional marked copies representing issues mailed after the publication was enrolled in the Alternate Marked Copy process may be requested.

5. Information on those four copies will be verified against the applicable postage statements and an average error percentage determined. That error percentage would be applied against all other issues mailed since the enrollment period, if the ad percentage variance determined by the verification is greater than 5 percent.

6. Mailers who disagree with the decision may appeal to the Pricing and Classification Service Center in New York City. If it is determined that the marked copy advertising percentage is less than or equal to 5 percent of that entered on the matching postage statement the verification passes and no further action is taken. 

That’s it in a nutshell. It is relatively simple, so long as newspapers are enrolled and provide accurate percentages on electronic documentation or hard copy postage statements submitted with each issue or editions of an issue. NNA will issue a news release on this change once the tests are completed and both USPS and NNA agree that the Alternate Marked Copy process as outlined remains feasible. 

 

© Max H eath 2016 MAX HEATH, NNA postal chair, is a postal consultant for Athlon Media Group, publisher of Parade, American Profi le, Relish, Spry Living, and Athlon Sports newspaper supplements, and also for Landmark Community Newspapers LLC. Email maxheath@lcni.com.