Little Rock, Ark. 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 today, 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.