Large Publishers Propose Changing Periodicals' Postal Rate Structure

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A coalition of large commercial publishers filed a proposal Jan. 12 with the Postal Rate Commission to alter the rate structure for periodicals.


In the filing, publishers such as Time Warner, Conde Nast Publications, Reader's Digest Association, Newsweek and TV Guide Magazine Group proposed to study periodicals rates, conduct hearings on the topic and issue a plan for an alternative periodicals rate schedule to the U.S. Postal Service's Board of Governors.


"For the past 17 years, periodicals' mail processing costs have been rising and periodicals' mail processing productivity has been falling, despite extensive efforts by both the USPS and mailers to bring about more efficient periodicals handling," the publishers said in the filing.


In general, the desired pricing structure is often referred to as "bottom up" pricing, said Neal Denton, executive director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers in Washington.


"Instead of constructing an all-inclusive postal rate and then applying discounts depending upon work sharing and drop shipping, etc., some have advocated the creation of a stripped-down basic rate structure that would then allow for the addition of requested services [such as sortation or transportation]," Denton said.


The proposal could be controversial.


"Some might consider this to be the first volley in the battle for postal reform," Denton said. "But whether it's the beginning of a revolution that will lead to improved postal pricing and more work-sharing opportunities or a civil war that pits periodical mailers against each other -- larger publishers and printers vs. smaller publications -- is yet to be seen."


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