Master Manufacturer: Co-mail Confusion
Co-mailing—the process in which a mailer (usually your printer) combines the mailing of your magazine with that of other titles—isn't a new process. However, chances are you've only performed one or two postal analyses utilizing co-mailing techniques. And, when you did your analyses, you may have misunderstood how much you would be "saving" by co-mailing.
By its very nature, analyzing co-mailing costs is difficult because it is a moving target. With each mailing pool, the participants change; therefore, quantities, weights and destinations change, resulting in different costs.
To make matters more confusing, the mailers use different methods, equipment, terminology, billing procedures, and numbers and sizes of pools per week. Yet, they all promise huge savings!
The question is: savings compared to what? Here's an important tip: Ignore the word "savings" in every mailing bid. The mailers use the word much differently than publishers. Mailers use it to show the difference between co-mailing your title(s) and other mailing options, such as direct entry, dynamic entry (drop-ship) or co-palletization. It is not the difference between what you currently pay for postage and what they propose.
Because co-mailing is a moving target, mailers use direct entry as a means to establish a baseline for comparative purposes. However, direct entry is the most expensive way to enter the postal system, and it is rarely used anymore. Most printers have been drop-shipping and co-palletizing for decades, and chances are your titles have been, too. Therefore, you have not been paying the highest possible postal rates—those from which mailers are calculating co-mail "savings."
Your job is to figure out your true savings—the difference between what you currently pay and what they are proposing.
Finding out what you currently pay is the easy part. After every mailing, the USPS gives you a receipt called Form 3541 (3206 for nonprofits). If you mail versions, each version of your magazine gets a 3541, so each mailing may have many pages.