NNA works to change marked copy compliance

Nov 1, 2016

By Tonda F. Rush
Director of Public Policy | NNA

A century-old requirement for newspapers using Periodicals Class Mail began to fade into postal history in October when the National Newspaper Association finished a two-year quest to eliminate marked-copy compliance for Periodicals mail. Instead, newspapers may now opt for a simple annual validation process.

Marked copies have been required in postal rules since the 19th century as a way to keep shoppers and catalogs from using the preferential Periodicals (formerly second-class) mail. Newspapers are required to “mark up” every page of each edition mailed to indicate which content consists of advertising and which of it is news or editorial copy. The sum of the advertising percentage on each page dictates the amount of postage paid for Outside County mailing.

In today’s digital age, according to NNA Postal Committee Chair Max Heath, this cumbersome requirement began to feel more and more outdated.

“It requires a trip to the post office, even if you are filing your postage statements electronically and paying through an online account,” Heath said. “Mostly it is just a pain in the neck. We still have to calculate our advertising percentage for postage purposes, but for a lot of people, software will do the job. Having to draw up each page was an extra compliance requirement that, in our view, had outlived its usefulness to the U.S. Postal Service and was just costing us, and them, unnecessary time.”

Instead, newspapers may immediately elect to enroll in the annual validation. Instructions for enrollment are available on the NNA members’ page at www.nnaweb.org. Until early November, NNA newspapers were permitted to beta-test the process before it opened to the general mailing world.

After a newspaper is accepted for annual validation by USPS, the publisher may immediately cease providing marked copies with every mailing. Instead, the newspaper will be asked next September during preparation for the October Statement of Ownership to provide a randomly selected marked copy issue from the previous year.

If the random issue matches the amount of advertising claimed in that issue’s postage statement, the newspaper is cleared for annual validation until the following year. If there is a discrepancy greater than a 5 percent understatement of postage, further processes will be employed to determine whether the newspaper has miscalculated postage all year. A statement for deficient postage could result before the publisher is cleared for annual validation again, and the publisher will need to consult with the local business mail entry unit to iron out any differences in measurement.

NNA President Matt Paxton thanked Heath, the Postal Committee and Postmaster General Megan Brennan for their forward-thinking approach to the revision.

“It took quite a while, as these projects usually seem to do, to make sure we have a process that the Postal Service auditors could embrace, but would also relieve both newspapers and USPS from unnecessary paperwork,” he said. “We are delighted that we could find a way to save our members a little bit of time each week.”