At 208' long, it's nearly two-thirds the size of a football field. But executives at Fry Communications say this digital printing behemoth is an effective weapon in the war against high distribution costs.
Fry Communications' Co-Mailing Utility can print up to 33 publications simultaneously, while keeping mail databases properly sorted. This allows publishers to qualify for higher postal discounts.
The process physically merges the mailstreams of different titles to create one master mailstream, which is then eligible for higher presort discounts available at the carrier route sort level.
The process can result in a 10% to 15% savings on postal costs, compared to the price of mailing titles in the traditional independent manner, Fry officials say. And considering mail costs can account for a third of operating costs for small- to medium-sized publishers, these savings have the potential to turn red ink into black.
"The U.S. Postal Service gives a substantial discount for bringing publications closer to the subscriber for shipping," says Steve Grande, assistant VP for Fry Communications Inc., in Mechanicsburg, Pa. "The unique benefit here is the consolidation of multiple titles. It helps publishers reach that desired postal threshold, where so many copies must ship to an individual ZIP code to qualify for certain discounts."
Instead of mailing publications out to each publisher's list, the system combines lists of multiple publishers, and identifies duplicate subscribers. Packages mail first to locations where duplicates are found, then to neighboring locations, then to individuals in specific ZIP codes.
It then branches out geographically, which is exactly how the USPS likes it. Grande promises savings of 10% to 15%, depending on the publisher's size, location, and geographic dispersal of the readership.
In general, though, "a smaller publisher will tend to save more than a large publisher," he says. Grande also promises more reliable subscriber delivery, quicker backstarts (insertions of new subscribers) at a lower unit, and volume-facilitated deeper penetration in dynamic entry.
He even suggests Fry's co-mailing approach can improve a publication's delivered quality. His rationale: faster processing reduces shipping and handling time. That means less wear-and-tear on publications, and a reduced risk of damage by the U.S. Postal Service.
To take advantage of Fry's co-mailing technology, publishers must submit unsorted subscriber lists for presort/combination on a schedule that's coincident with Fry's mailing run.
Mail list and pre-sort programs then move to a consolidated mode, where lists are combined and presorted, amortizing the improved postal sort across the entire commingled mail run. Participating publications must arrive in time to meet the production run.
Pricing for the new service was not finalized at press time; however, "charges to publishers will be determined as a split sharing of the savings in postage, as result of use of the multimailer," Grande says. "That's a good deal."
- Evan Schuman
Evan Schuman is a freelance journalist based in Whippany, N.J.