Wednesday, June 16, 2010

USPS To Give Publishers a Break on Ride-Alongs

The Postal Service has decided to liberalize the “ride-along” rules that have  prevented product samples and certain other advertising gimmicks from running in U.S. magazines, sources said today.

The new regulations would reduce the postal cost of many of those advertising pieces by 90% or more.

To understand the significance of the change, note the recent cover of an L.L. Bean catalog, which includes a small fabric sample on the first page that pokes through a die-cut hole in the cover, with an invitation to "feel the softness." Bean has used such fabric samples several times in its catalogs, but never in its magazine advertising.

The reason is simple: In a Periodicals-class mailing, the fabric sample would be considered a ride-along, for which the Postal Service charges 16.5 cents apiece. But the only postal charge for putting the fabric sample into the Bean catalog (Standard class mail) was a bit of additional weight, resulting in a postage cost of only a tiny fraction of a cent per catalog.

One source said the decision by postal officials, which will supposedly be spelled out soon in the Federal Register, was announced at an Idealliance postal seminar in New York today. Many items now subject to ride-along charges will instead be treated like regular advertising pages in magazines or newspapers, though CD’s will still be charged ride-along rates.

The idea behind ride-along rates was to prevent Periodicals from being used to cannibalize other, more profitable classes of mail. But the high price and the limit of one ride-along per publication have blocked many high-impact advertising ideas that included seed-impregnated paper, band-aids, refrigerator magnets, and small product samples that would have virtually no impact on the Postal Service’s costs.

See Postal Service May Boost Ride-Alongs for more information about the thinking behind ride-along liberalization and what it might entail. And Catalog Prospecting: Thar's gold in them thar pages notes L.L Bean's use of magazine advertising to prospect for new customers.

1 comment:

Papyrus said...

This appears to be terrible news for the recyclability of direct mail. These will all be awful contaminants in the recycling process and it also passes on new public education burdens to NGOs and waste hauled and recycled paper mills. Since the MPA and USPS both have committees focused on these issues I wonder if they can help me out here. Does Mr. Dead Tree have any more info on this aspect?