Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Postal service plans to let newspapers count electronic subscriptions on their mailing forms

The U.S. Postal Service has published a proposed rule that would allow newspapers to list electronic subscriptions on their annual postal statements, the fundamental documentation of weekly newspaper circulation in the United States. The change would allow newspapers to place on a sworn, official document a form of circulation that is becoming increasingly important to rural papers, partly because of increasingly slow delivery of mailed copies, especially outside the papers' home counties.

"If copies that get poor delivery to distant addresses are sold e-subs instead of print copies, they [will] save printing and higher postage of 30-60 cents per copy, depending on weight and distance," explained Max Heath, postal specialist for the National Newspaper Association, the largest organization for community newspapers in the U.S. The NNA has been lobbying for such a change for four years.

Electronic subscription, as long as they totaled less than 60 percent of total circulation, could help a newspaper qualify for favorable mailing rates for its printed copies. To do that, a paid subscription would have to be sold for no less than 30 percent of the regularly published rate for a print subscription. Many newspapers are selling combination print and electronic subscriptions, but they would not be allowed to double-count them.

The proposal is open for comment until March 5. For the Federal Register pages containing the proposal, click here. UPDATE, Feb. 27: For a column by NNA consultant Max Heath, written for newspapers, go here

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