‘Nation’s Oldest Paper’ survives threat

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Late month, New Hampshire Gazette owner Steve Fowle told readers that his postal expenses were going up 44.4% because of a “non-machineability surcharge” of 20-cents per paper — “an existential threat” to his business, he said.

I asked him today about that, and here’s what he wrote:

For five years we have been folding our eight-page tab down to 5.5 x 11.5 inches and mailing it to subscribers in forty some-odd states by First Class mail. It was costing us $0.45 per paper — we come in at just under one ounce. We can’t qualify for Periodical Rate because we give away (way) more than 50 percent of our press run.

We knew last fall that new regulations were coming, but because we were mistakenly told then that our category of mailing piece was not subject to the non-machineable surcharge, we did not try to engineer a way to make our paper “machineable.” Then January 11, and oops.

Fowle then learned he was subject to the surcharge. He was able to get two waivers in January while he dealt the problem.

One month of talking with half a dozen uniformly pleasant, concerned, and helpful postal employees in five different locations, resulted in a mutually-agreeable method of folding and sealing our papers: 4.25 x 9 inches, sealed with three 1.5 inch paper stickers rather than a single 1 inch sticker.

Our papers are prepared for mailing by a team of six volunteers. This method is a lot more work for them, and produces a less-elegant piece, but they’re willing, and the PO assured us that the pieces would meet the new non-machineable standards.

As for the future, we’re a microscopic operation and we operate on ridiculously low margins. Had we not been able to come up with a way to overcome that surcharge, it would have thrown our survivability into question.

* New Hampshire Gazette, January 25, 2013 (nhgazette.com)

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