Legal Update: New USPS Charges for "Droopy" Newspapers
As noted in the AP article below, under a U.S. Postal Service rule that took effect October 3, mailing costs will rise for certain deflection-failing (i.e., droopy) flat pieces of mail longer than 10 inches. Since this rule could affect those droopy newspapers that drop off newspapers at the post office, the entire rule can be found at this link:

Notably, the rule describes the "deflection test" that the USPS will use and provides an illustration. The rule, however, does not address one question that many may raise: how frequently will the post office test a paper? This is important because the page counts and inserts vary from issue to issue. The rule says no prequalification process will be used and that flats must meet all standards as they "are produced and presented for live mailing."

The rule provides exemptions: "flat-size pieces mailed as high density or saturation carrier route pieces, and basic carrier route pieces entered by the mailer at destination delivery units (DDUs), are not required to meet" the deflection standards. See Max Heath's clearer description of these exemptions in the AP article below.

Note that the rule says USPS is strongly encouraging mailers considering quarter-folding their flats to work with their local Mailpiece Design Analyst to discuss all options. USPS will use its electronic mail improvement reporting (eMIR) system to alert mailers with problematic flats so they can adjust their mail piece design.

Sam Morley is General Counsel for the Florida Press Association, directs legislative and lobbying efforts on behalf of the association and oversees the Legal Hotline, a free service provided to FPA member newspapers. He is the immediate past chair of Florida Bar's Media and Communications Law Committee. Sam routinely provides advice about the sunshine law and open records acts, libel, employment issues, legal advertising, taxation, and other laws affecting newspapers. He can be reached at 877-NEWS-LAW (639-7529) or at


USPS Says Droopy Newspapers to Cost More to Mail

Hard news that flops will cost more to mail; rule change could affect many small newspapers
The Associated Press
By CHUCK BARTELS AP Business Writer
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. October 2, 2010 (AP)

Even if a newspaper is filled with hard news, the U.S. Postal Service is checking to see whether it's droopy.

Under a rule that takes effect Sunday, if a flat piece of mail that's longer than 10 inches droops too much, it will cost more to mail in bulk. The change is because such mail can't be put through an automated flat sorter, and sorting by hand costs more.

That could affect many community newspapers, which drop off their editions - addressed to subscribers - for the post office to deliver. Magazines, envelopes and shopping circulars also come under the new rule.

The postal service is subjecting newspapers to a "droop test," to determine if they're fit for the machine sorter. The post office places the paper on a counter with a flat edge, with half of the item hanging from the edge. If it droops more than 3 inches, it fails. No bulk discount.

The non-discount rate will raise mailing costs from 5.9 cents per item to 9.9 cents, a 68 percent increase, or to 10.5 cents, a 78 percent hike, for newspapers without barcodes.

While losing the discount will cost publishers pennies per item, the percentage increase and potential troubles are significant, said Ron Wylie, general manager of the weekly Johnson County Graphic in Clarksville, Ark.

"I can see how this is going to cause newspapers a lot of problems," said Wylie, who mails about 400 papers from his circulation of 7,900. He said he wonders how much leeway the post office will grant from day to day.

"I did the test here at my desk to see how it measured up," he said. "I go about 2 7/8 inches. That was on a paper with three inserts." Without the advertising inserts, Wylie said he had a droopy paper.

Newspapers already put a lot of effort into meeting postal regulations, labeling with barcodes and ZIP-plus-four codes to speed sorting, said Max Heath, a postal consultant for the Publishing Group of America and the National Newspaper Association.

Heath said he hasn't found an answer yet on how frequently the post office will test a paper.

"The fact is, you can't just take a measurement one time and say you're no good," Heath said, since page counts vary from issue to issue. The U.S. Postal Service didn't immediately respond to a call seeking comment.

Some responses to the change mean spending more.

"Maybe you can use (a stiff) insert. If it's an advertising insert, it pays for itself. If it's not, it just makes the paper heavier and costs more to mail anyway," said Tres Williams of the Arkansas Press Association.

And Wylie said heavier newsprint that might droop less would cost more to use and more to mail. Heath said newspapers can also charge subscribers an additional $3 to $5 per year.

Heath said the National Newspaper Association persuaded the postal service to include a number of exceptions, which helped blunt the effect.

The discount remains for in-county delivery of papers that are labeled and dropped off at the post office that will deliver them. But out-of-county deliveries of the same publication in most cases will lose the discount. Also, newspapers and shopping circulars eligible for a high-density rate - those distributed to 90 percent of addresses in an area - are excepted from the droop rule, Heath said.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Used by permission.


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