USPS Could Impact Your Budget in 2015
publishers are hearing the buzz about a potential postal rate increase — could
intelligent mail provide some relief?
By Andrew Shackelford
By now you’ve likely heard about two of the arguably most
important topics related to United States Postal
Service: the potential postal rate increase and intelligent mail. Here I’ll
describe each issue, what they mean for associations, and what you can do to
own the issue.
Postal Rate Increase — Summary
In mid-January, the USPS announced that it would be seeking a
1.9 percent postage rate increase effective April 26, 2015. The USPS is
asking for this rate increase on top of the exigent rate increase from 2014.
However, the exigent rate increase of about 4.5 percent is set to expire this
summer. What the USPS is counting on is a favorable ruling to their court case
to make the exigent rate increase permanent. The case is scheduled to be heard in
Postal Rate Increase — What it Means for Associations
There are several possible outcomes to this proposal. We can
pretty much rule out that rates will decrease when it’s all said and done. If
the exigent rate increase becomes permanent, rates should increase by 1.9 percent
in April. If the exigent rate increase expires, the USPS can withdraw the
proposed rate increase for April and hold off until fall to get a much larger
Another possible outcome is that the
USPS could raise postage rates in April and then very quickly raise rates a
second time in the summer. In the end, the USPS will likely work a strategy
that increases postage rates about 1.9 percent before the end of 2015. How they
get it done depends on what happens to the pending rate case.
Finally, there is one more possible
scenario. Congress could enact
postal reform and change the rules on rate setting once more. If that were to
happen, the USPS will pretty much have a free hand to set rates as it sees fit.
However, chances of congressional intervention are extremely slim.
Postal Rate Increase — How to Own It
1. Increase your postal budget. I
know, easier said than done — but certainly worth investigating. For example,
if your magazine’s monthly circulation is 20,000 and your presort standard rate
is an average of 41 cents for each magazine, an extra 1.9 percent translates
into $2,025 more per year in postage. Speak with your printer or mailer to
calculate how the increase might impact your budget.
2. Decrease your postal rate by learning
whether you may qualify for periodicals mail classification. If
your advertising is less than 50 percent of your total content and you mail four
times a year, you should look into the savings you’d receive by attaining periodicals
mail classification. Check with your printer or mailer to see if they will
assist you in the investigation.
3. Offset a rate increase with lower
production costs. One of the most overlooked techniques that
offers a significant budgetary impact is altering your magazine’s page count.
Find out at which signature configuration your printer is most cost effective,
and stick with multiples and subsets of that page count. Another large-impact
production savings to consider is a self-cover magazine format. This strategy utilizes
the same paper stock on the cover as is used in the text.
Mail — What it is
Once you drop your mail into the general mail stream, it’s as though you’ve
dropped your mail into a black abyss. You lose sight of your mailing piece, and
you have to trust that the USPS will deliver it. The only feedback you receive
is from the recipient. And if the piece is late or damaged, chances are that
feedback won’t always be positive.
Intelligent mail is an umbrella term describing services available
from the USPS. The cornerstone of intelligent mail is the intelligent mail
barcode, which packs greater data capacity into a barcode. Each barcode
contains information for the USPS on what the mail piece is, how it is
processed, and provides a unique identity to every mail piece.
Intelligent Mail — What it Means for
mail can help associations lower postage, improve
surface visibility for mail pieces, and provide better access to address
hygiene data. However, the key to the future
of intelligent mail is two-fold.
First, service providers will develop new services using the
information that can be harvested from current intelligent mail data.
Whether it is surface visibility or improving address quality, third-party
vendors will find ways to take the outputs available and package them to
provide fingertip access to the mail owners. I fully expect to see apps
for smartphones that utilize data produced by intelligent mail mailings. Because
of the value of the data, the only limit to its application is imagination.
Second, the USPS and mailers have not fully tapped into the
potential of intelligent mail. The very nature of the data-rich
intelligent mail barcode will eventually give rise to new ideas about how to
capture valuable data from mail delivery. Imagine combining mail delivery
results for specific kinds of mail with information about the general delivery
destination. That information could be channeled back to the mailer so
that future mailings are tailored to fit the audience.
Mail — How to Own It
Check with your printer or mailer about what intelligent mail services they
provide. In the near future, keep an eye out in your favorite marketing magazines
and blogs for third-party services and products that are used in conjunction
with intelligent mail. Even though intelligent mail has been maturing for
several years now, the best is yet to come.
Andrew Shackelford is a sales representative for Walsworth
printing company and a member of the Association Media & Publishing Content