Within County newspaper mail to nonsubscribers now allowable up to 50% of Within County circulation

May 27, 2022

Newspapers that previously were limited to sending up to 10% of their Within County circulation to non-subscribers without commingling are now officially allowed up to 50% non-subscriber copies. The USPS Postal Service today published its new rule, as was required by the Postal Service Reform Act of 2022.

The new law went into effect April 6, but USPS is putting it into effect as of May 27, 2022.

The new rule allows much broader sampling to nonsubscribers and nonrequesters than community newspapers have enjoyed for the past century. Congress passed the new rule in recognition that newspapers needed a broader ability to attract new subscribers, particularly as service problems have caused mailing lists to shrink.

The rule affects only Within County mail. For Outside County mail, newspapers can still send up to 10% to nonsubscribers without commingling, or up to 50% by commingling the nonsubscriber copies with subscriber copies.

NNA Chair Brett Wesner, president of Wesner Publications, Cordell, Oklahoma, said the new rule was a major victory for NNA members.

“We have been seeking this increase for decades,” Wesner said. “It took the interest of Rep. James Comer, R-Kentucky, and other leaders in the postal reform effort this year to finally help us over the finish line. NNA is grateful for their assistance.”

NNA Postal Committee Chair Matthew Paxton, publisher of the News-Gazette, Lexington, Virginia, said he recognized that some members had begun using the sampling allowance when Congress passed the bill.

“The Postal Service took longer than we expected to publish the rule,” Paxton said. “But for newspapers that began to use the privilege as of April 6, I do not anticipate any audit problems. We are providing the official rule on the NNA website here (https://www.nna.org/pub/doc/2022-11522-new-rule-effective-5.27.2022.pdf), for members that need documentation to show their postmasters or Business Mail Entry units. This is a great day for NNA members. We had a tremendous effort from the NNA Congressional Action Team for many months to get this done.”

A newspaper regularly sending 5,000 copies each week to Within County subscribers who are in good standing, now can send up to 2,500 copies to nonsubscribers. These nonsubscriber copies do not have to be mixed in with the regular mailing.

But Paxton advises holding back on using the privilege to the full 50%.

“We are legally allowed now to go that far,” he said. “But the prudent publisher won’t hit the speed limit all the time. There are always possibilities during an audit that an error has been made or that some subscribers were wrongly counted. The penalty for too much sampling is to be deemed a free circulation newspaper by USPS, and that can cost a publisher his or her permit. The penalty is severe. So we are advising people to use the privilege well, but carefully.”

The new sampling privilege will be discussed during the Max Heath Postal Institute’s program on Newspaper Mail on June 23. Information will be provided in the coming week.

MHPI programs are sponsored by the NNA Foundation.