If you plan to start a magazine or newspaper or have already started one and do not have periodical status you should weigh the benefits of lower cost and better service against the difficulty in obtaining it and the regulations you will have to follow once you are approved.
The obvious benefit is that it is cheaper than first class mail and standard (third class) mail. For example, one client had a mailing of 10,000 copies for a 52 page publication and saved $175 or 6% of the total compared to standard mail. That may not seem like much but as the title gets larger you save more. Over $1800 or 12% for 50,000 copies. That’s over $20,000 a year for a monthly. More pages and / or higher print order yields more savings.
Service is better than standard mail. In some instances service is similar to First Class. Other service benefits are a free monitoring system for subscriber complaints and free forwarding for 60 days.
Before even looking at the process you should get some idea if you can qualify. For simplicity sake I am going to assume that you are applying as a general publication.
To begin with, your magazine must be published at least four times a year on a regular frequency. The biggest hurdle is that more than 50% of the distributed copies must be paid (this can include newsstand sales). There must also be at least 25% editorial content in half of the issues. Please be aware that each of these requirements are a little more complicated than what is stated here, but the purpose is to see if you are or can be in the ballpark.
Now review the application form, PS form 3500, fill it out and pay a $375 application fee and submitted to the office specified for your “office of original entry” or the official address for your publication. The good news is that if your application is accepted your publication is considered "pending."While pending approval you do not pay the periodical rate, but if you are paying the standard mail rate you pay into a special account and you will refunded the difference once you pass the audit
The bad news is that the application is a little more complicated then it looks. “Technically” they should accept a properly filled out application at face value and give you pending status. However, if you are new to the process they may take more time and attempt to pre-qualify you. This is can be a good thing because if you do not qualify, you loose the fee and both you and the postal service will have wasted time and money gathering the data. To expedite the process, it helps to work with someone who is familiar with the process and have them make sure you meet the basic qualifications. They can then pass this on to the Postal Service in a way that assures them you are on the right track. This can be especially important with a daily, weekly or bi-weekly publication where you need the periodical delivery service ASAP.
The next step will be the actual audit where the post office asks for proof. Items like your print order and subscription and newsstand galleys will start the process and then they will ask for some sample proofs of payment.
Once they are satisfied, all the paperwork is submitted to the Pricing and Classification Service Center (PCSC) in NY. They may have additional questions, but once approved you will automatically get your refund and start paying the new rate and belong to a very exclusive club.
The following are some of the basic forms associated with Periodicals and how they are used:
These are all available at http://www.usps.com/forms/
About the Author
Matthew Morrone is a principal in Media Logistics Consulting providing Magazine Publishers and other mailers with postal and newsstand distribution support, information and budgeting tools. His clients include weekly and monthly consumer and trade magazine publishers from New York City to California. Matt has over 20 years experience in postal and newsstand distribution. He was the Director of Distribution for PRIMEDIA CMMG, Assistant Director of Distribution at The Conde Nast Publications and held various management positions at The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. To receive a copy of his free monthly newsletter, Media Logistics News, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 201 880 0903. You may also apply online at http//www.MediaLC.com