Priority Mail: New Year Brings USPS Changes

The USPS increased rates for both competitive and market-dominant products on January 22, 2012. Market-dominant products are those for which the USPS does not compete with private industry (first class mail, periodicals, standard mail, single-piece parcel post, media mail, bound printed matter, library mail, special services, and single-piece international mail). Competitive products are those for which a competitive market exists—shipping services (priority mail, expedited mail, bulk parcel post), bulk international mail, and mail grams.

The increases of greatest interest to printers are for market-dominant products, where the average price increase is 2.133 percent (though there is variance by class and processing category). The increase is based on a price cap calculated by the Postal Regulatory Commission using Consumer Price Index data.

One important change in the new rates is that for first class presorted letters, the first two ounces mail at the same rate, which effectively means the second ounce is free. The advantage disappears for a three-ounce letter, which is charged at the first-ounce rate plus the prevailing rate for the additional two ounces. Paul Vogel, president and chief marketing/sales officer, explained that the second-ounce-free change “gives companies expanded opportunities to advertise new services and products to their customers as part of bill and statement mailings”

Besides the rate increases, the USPS is making some classification changes. The details of these changes can be found in the October 24, 2011 Federal Register notice.

Revised Standards for FSMs

When the standards for tabbing folded self-mailers (FSM) changed in 2009, mailers raised significant objections, based on their production processes. In response, the USPS agreed to conduct tests aimed at determining whether standards could be revised to accommodate both the industry and the USPS.

Testing revealed that dimension, basis weight of the paper on the cover, closure method, and closure placement were the four most important characteristics for determining machinability. Accordingly, the USPS has published revised standards for FSMs. Here are the changes for size:

• Length: A minimum of five inches and a maximum of 10.5 inches.

• Height: A minimum of 3.5 inches and a maximum of six inches.

• Thickness: A minimum of 0.007 inch (0.009 inch if the height exceeds 4.25 inches, or if the length exceeds six inches), and a maximum thickness is 0.25-inch.

• Maximum Weight: Three ounces.

• Rectangular, with four square corners and parallel opposite sides.

• Within an aspect ratio (length by height) of 1.3 to 2.5, inclusive.

• Maximum number of panels, bi-fold, tri-fold and oblongs: Eight

  • • Exception: Quarter folded self-mailers made of minimum 100-pound book grade paper may have four panels. Those made of 55-pound newsprint must have at least eight panels and may contain up to 16 panels.

The revised standards also include the definition of a panel and lengthy descriptions of permissible fold and panel configurations. Options are provided for sealing (glue line, glue spots, tabbing), die cuts, perforations, loose enclosures, and attachments. Printers should remember that these changes apply only to folded self-mailers mailed at letter rates. The requirements for flat self-mailers are not affected.


USPS Direct Mail Hub

PIA, MFSA, and mailers in general are expressing concern about Direct Mail Hub. The program is similar to other mailing services being offered online and highlights specific mail services providers. You can view the website at

Both PIA and MFSA have expressed opposition to Direct Mail Hub to the Postmaster General. The USPS defends the site as part of its ongoing initiatives (which includes EDDM) to promote interest in using direct mail. As of October 2011, Direct Mail Hub was still in test mode and no final decision on its continuation had been made.


Nancy DeDiemar is a former chairman of NAQP and Printer of the Year. She is the co-publisher of Printips (, a newsletter subscription service for printers. Contact her at