New NCOA Product Set for July

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The U.S. Postal Service will release NCOALink, its new change of address product, to vendors July 1.


NCOALink replaces the National Change of Address and FASTforward products that mailers now use to update mailing lists. These services let mailers comply with the postal service's Move Update requirement and therefore qualify for First-Class mail automation and presort discounts. The USPS said it will retire the current NCOA technology one year after NCOALink is released.


The current NCOA database contains change-of-address information filed with the postal service within the past 43 months. FASTforward contains the most recent 13 months of change-of-address data.


Current change of address products require a high level of security to protect the data. FASTforward encloses data in a secure box that requires a specific interface, approved and monitored by the USPS, to be able to provide forwarding information. NCOA is offered by a restricted group of 18 NCOA licensees.


NCOALink replaces both systems with one product that the postal service said lets it securely release address information in a format that is not a clear address list, but a mathematical, 11-digit representation of the new address. The USPS said this lets developers provide access to sensitive address data in a more convenient and secure format, reducing much of the administrative oversight by the USPS required by the current format. Mailers, for example, will be able to integrate NCOALink into their in-house computer technology.


The USPS also said NCOALink would let it expand its distribution, which will help improve address quality and undeliverable-as-addressed mail.


Though the USPS hopes the product reaches a wider audience, NCOALink initially will be available only to the 18 current NCOA licensees as well as specific FASTforward licensees -- the Mailing List Correction Certified Interface Developers and Service providers. Opening it up to a broader audience "is under consideration," a USPS spokesman said.


NCOALink licensees "will be able to choose to get the 48 months or 13 months of data," said Jan Caldwell, manager of addressing, USPS. Caldwell also said pricing has not been finalized, though "we are very close."


Some NCOA licensees are concerned about opening licensing to new vendors. Others said many unanswered questions remain with the system, despite the July 1 date approaching quickly.


"Nine months after they have introduced the product, I still don't know about the distribution channels and I still don't know about pricing," said Buddy Speigel, vice president, address products at Anchor Computer Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL, who said that NCOA is a significant part of his company's business.


Others are pleased with the new product.


"We enjoy our partnership with the postal service, but we also very much support the industry in terms of data integrity and address hygiene," said Susan Connors, vice president, client services, Merkle Direct Marketing Inc. "So anything the postal service can do to help ensure a [broader audience has] access to that information, we are in support of that."


She said that straight NCOA work is not a major revenue steam for Merkle, Lanham, MD.


FASTforward licensees are pleased because they now can offer an NCOA product.


"When NCOALink comes out, there will be more competition and less differences between the technology. I think this is something very good for the industry," said Jeff Stangle, a senior product manager at Pitney Bowes, Stamford, CT, which currently offers a FASTforward product called ForwardTrak and will sell NCOALink. "More move data will be accessible in a method easier than today."


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