Next March, the USPS will implement new delivery address placement and format requirements for flats, the size of mail that most catalogs are classified under.
The requirements will apply to ALL catalogs and not just those destined for postal facilities that will have the new Flats Sequencing System machines that the USPS will begin deploying this fall. And this is regardless of how flats are presorted, whether they’re barcoded or where they entered the mailstream.
The best way to look at these issues is literally to have your own catalogs in front of you so you can see what changes may need to be made.
The New Rule
Place your delivery address on the top half of the catalog. Under this new requirement, the delivery address — recipient’s name, company name, address, city, state, ZIP, etc. — must appear on the top half of the catalog when the bound edge (spine) is to the right. It must be placed at least 1⁄8-inch from any edge of the catalog.
1. Take your catalog and hold it so the bound edge (spine) is vertical and to the right. For most catalogs, this means you’re looking at the back of the catalog or the front cover upside down. If you want your delivery address on the back cover, it’ll need to be placed in the top half of the back cover, with the address oriented as you’d read it — not upside down. Alternatively, you can place the address vertically (parallel to the bound edge), in which case the text can read in either direction.
2. If you want your delivery address on the front cover, hold the catalog with the bound edge to the right. This makes it so your front cover is upside down, and the address needs to be placed in the top half. Translating that to how you’d normally look at the front cover, the address has to go in the bottom half of the front cover, but upside down, so when you turn the front cover so the bound edge is on the right, you can read the address. This isn’t an option many catalogers seem to consider because they think it may confuse or irritate customers, who may think the company erred by placing an upside-down address on the bottom of the front cover.
Keep in mind that the delivery address need not be horizontal (perpendicular to the bound edge) as many are today. You could use a vertical address orientation, which means the address reads parallel to the bound edge, as some catalogs already do. If you do use this option, the address can cross the halfway point of the catalog as long as it’s placed within one inch of the top edge, an important point for smaller catalogs that would have trouble fitting the address block in the top half.
There are some other nuances to the new requirements. If you use polywrap or envelopes to mail your catalogs, look at the actual requirements.
Fonts and Spacing Rules
New requirements for delivery address font sizes and character/line spacing specify that unless the catalog is mailed at automation postage rates, a minimum font size of 8 point type (each character has to be at least 0.080 inches high) must be used for the delivery address. For catalogs mailed at automation rates, a minimum font size of 6 point type (each character must be at least 0.065 inches high) can be used, but the address must be printed in all capital letters.
If you’re mailing at automation rates, there’s more: The characters in the delivery address can’t overlap — they can touch, so script fonts are OK — and the lines in the delivery address can’t touch or overlap.
In addition, each element on each line of the delivery address must be separated by no more than five blank character spaces. For example, ‘‘ANYTOWN US 12345’’ would meet the requirements. ‘‘ANYTOWN US 12345’’ wouldn’t. A blank character space equals the width of the widest character in the address.
Who Has to Worry?
As a big catalog customer, I took a walk through a stack of catalogs I received at home. Out of 40 or so catalogs, only seven or eight met the new delivery address placement requirements. Most had their addresses on the bottom of the back cover. If these companies want to continue printing the delivery address on the back cover, they need to move it to the top half.
My home mailbox also included catalogs that used different address placements. Some printed the delivery addresses vertically (parallel to the bound edge) in the upper half of the back cover, either on the left or right side, which meet the new requirements. A few even put their delivery addresses in the top half with the traditional address orientation, which reads perpendicular to the bound edge.
Then I found many catalogs, including several big names, that use the vertical style address orientation (parallel to the bound edge) on the bottom of the back cover (as held with the bound edge to the right). Those addresses will need to move to the top.
If your catalog doesn’t meet the new requirements on March 29, 2009, it could be disqualified for Standard mail rates. That means you’ll have to pay First Class single piece rates. Conceivably, if you meet the address placement requirements but not the font and spacing, it could be mailed at Standard mail rates without the automation rate discounts. But even that's a significant postage rate increase.
What to Do
My advice to catalogers that won’t be able to make the necessary changes by next March is to work with the USPS to try to get an exception or extension.
As you become more familiar with the new requirements, you'll notice the USPS has not only published the requirements, but also mixed in other changes it would like to see made. These USPS “preferences” are not requirements, so review them in that context. Some of the “preferences” or “guidelines” may benefit the processing and delivery of your catalog, but if meeting those requirements is costly or burdensome, you don’t need to make them in order to comply.
Spread the Word
Based on recent conversations I’ve had with different catalogers, it’s clear that many aren’t even aware of these new requirements.
For more information, read the USPS’ final rules at http://pe.usps.com/FederalRegisterNotices.asp (“New Address Requirements for Automation, Presorted, and Carrier Route Flat-Size Mail”). There are some illustrations included in this notice, but they’re not always easy to understand. It’s likely the USPS will prepare more user-friendly tools over the next 10 months. What’s more, I expect that plenty of industry groups and service providers will offer seminars, webinars and podcasts to explain the new requirements and changes that companies need to make.
Kathy J. Siviter is president of Postal Consulting Services, a postal issues consulting firm. You can reach her at (703) 237-1740 or email@example.com.