United States Postal Service

Three Things to Consider While You Wait for the Flats Decision
May 9, 2007

This week’s Target Practice was supposed to discuss designing flats for machining and automation, but the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) foiled our attempt, just as it’s frustrated hundreds of direct mailers with its recent confirmation of upcoming rate changes. On May 2, 2007, the USPS released a statement reiterating that all new rates are scheduled to go into effect on May 14 (except for those lucky Periodicals, which are off the hook until July 14), but “still pending is the [Board of] Governors’ request that the PRC (Postal Regulatory Commission) reconsider its decision relating to Standard Mail flats.” The kicker? “No date has

Postal Changes Take Shape
May 1, 2007

When the Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) approved most of the recommendations made by the Postal Regulatory Commission in March, it set into motion an often confusing set of regulations and cost increases that will have a wide-ranging impact on direct mail users of all sizes, budgets and markets. Since the initial rate changes for First Class and Standard mail are scheduled to be implemented on May 14—followed by scheduled changes in July for periodicals and catalogs, and in August for mandatory use of Delivery Point Verification (DPV)—hopefully you’ve already begun preparing for these adjustments and new requirements. If you

Hughes Network Systems’ Peter Gulla on Mail Tracking
April 4, 2007

Because so much of the direct marketing process is based on the probability of whether a prospect will take certain actions, marketers put significant stock in gathering as much information as possible about their contact with the target audience. For Germantown, Md.-based Hughes Network Systems, a provider of broadband satellite networks and services, mail delivery dates are an important factor in running an efficient prospecting program. The marketer’s target audience is households located in areas that are not served by DSL or cable Internet providers but that would like high-speed Internet access. The HughesNet service is a high-end item—plans start at $59.99 a month, depending

Editor’s Notes: An Open Rate of a Different Kind
February 1, 2007

In the 14 years I’ve spent researching, writing about and advocating for the direct marketing industry, I’ve done my share of editorializing on the woes of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and the need for reform. And after witnessing several versions of a reform bill bite the dust in one congressional session after another, I certainly qualified as being jaded. That was my state of mind last fall, when it looked as if another sun would set on the battle started by Rep. John McHugh (R-NY) in the mid-1990s. Oh me of little faith. Behind the scenes, Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tom Carper (D-DE)—assisted

Nuts & Bolts: The 411 on Flats
February 1, 2007

This spring, postal rates are set to increase for the second time in as many years, and for mailers in the flats category this hike brings some especially damaging hits. Further confounding the issue is the move from two presort tiers to four for flats and the addition of a Not Flats-machinable rate category for pieces that are too rigid or lumpy. There is good news, however: These additional presort tiers represent more ability for worksharing discounts, and entry discounts are set to rise as well. The chart below illustrates the cost per thousand for machinable flats—weighing 3.3 ounces or less—under the proposed rate case.

Nuts & Bolts: USPS Unleashes the 4-State Customer Barcode
January 1, 2007

After a large-scale test that included more than 24 million mail pieces, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has formally launched its 4-State Customer Barcode (4-CB), an advanced mail coding technology that combines the capabilities of POSTNET and PLANET codes, and will be the cornerstone of the USPS’ OneCode Solution suite of services. The 4-CB includes 31 digits that translate into 65 vertical bars each in one of four states—full bar, ascender, tracker or descender. Although just slightly longer than the POSTNET code, 4-CB can carry more service-level and identifying data, thereby adding functionality without multiple barcodes and human-readable information. According to the September edition

BREAKING NEWS: Postal Reform Passage Imminent?
December 8, 2006

Eleven years in the making, and written off as dead and buried just a few weeks ago, a new postal reform bill is expected to be passed through the House and Senate possibly by the end of Friday — if not, Saturday. The House on Dec. 7 introduced H.R. 6407, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. Once approved by both chambers of Congress, sources say that President Bush will sign the bill into law. The new bill has all the elements that the White House has been demanding. In brief, what this means to catalogers is as follows: * Future postal rate hikes will be

When it Comes to Stamps, Third Time’s a Charm for Mailers
November 8, 2006

Affixing a live stamp to an outer envelope is a well-known tactic used by direct mailers to reach a prospect on a personal level. However, when it comes to making your piece stand out from the flux of stamped missives that’s growing ever stronger as the holiday season approaches, Doug King, team sales manager for the U.S. Postal Service suggests adopting a rule of three in terms of application. “If the postage’s going to be 21 cents … break that up into three denominations and have three different stamps on there,” he explains. A tactic mainly used by the nonprofit sector, spreading the cost

Target Marketing’s Direct Marketing Glossary
October 10, 2006

/M: Per thousand. /MM: Per million. AA: Authors alterations, i.e., changes other than corrections made by a client after the proofing process has begun. AOV (average order value): The average amount of each customer order. Abandoned Call: When a caller hangs up before his or her call is answered by an agent. Above the Fold: The part of an e-mail message or Web page that’s visible without scrolling. Absorbency: The capacity a paper has for accepting liquids, like the inks or water used to run offset lithographic presses. Accordion Fold: Parallel folds that opens like an accordion. Acid-free Paper: Paper manufactured on a machine with the wet-end chemistry controlled to a neutral

Custom Postage Goes Commercial
October 1, 2006

In mid-2004, the U.S. Postal Service ran a seven-week market test of custom postage for consumers; the success of that initiative led it to relaunch the program in May 2005 as a longer-term trial. This year, the Postal Service gave its stamp of approval to a one-year test of custom First Class, Priority and Express postage for commercial efforts. According to Nick Barranca, vice president of product development for the Postal Service, this commercial application came about due to the recent amendment of a Civil War-era law that prohibited commercial messages from being used on any obligation of the federal government. The law was