What is co-mailing? And how can it help your distribution costs?

Printing Tips - Co-mailing basics

If a mailing of your magazine includes at least 5,000 copies, you could benefit from co-mailing. Here’s how it works and how it can help you manage distribution costs.

You can learn more on our All Things Postal page. And you can drop us a note on our Contact page if you have specific questions about your distribution needs.

Bundling for savings

Most people are familiar with the concept of bundling. It’s done with insurance products, internet services and other items that fall into a particular category. The more products or services with shared qualities you can bundle, the less you pay per item.

Co-mailing is a little like product and service bundling. Periodicals from different publishers might be related only in the sense that they’re printed on paper and bound, but as far as the United States Postal Service is concerned, they’re closely enough related to be bundled. So the postage price per publication goes down. And the savings can be substantial.

To earn the discount, publications are sorted, assembled on pallets and direct-dropped across the country to the cities that correspond to the addresses. Because it takes 250 pounds of mail to make up a qualifying pallet, publishers combine their periodicals with those of other publishers. Most often, they can’t make the weight requirement on their own.

Co-mailing rules

Of course, to make the co-mailing system work most efficiently, there have to be rules besides the 5,000-copy minimum. These are some examples:

  • Either inkjet or pressure-sensitive labeling can be used for addresses. The inkjet imprint or pressure-sensitive label must appear on either the lower part of the front cover or upper part of the back cover.
  • The minimum and maximum height, width and thickness of co-mailed pieces vary by mailing company, depending on the available machinery.
  • Poly-wrapped pieces must meet requirements for overhang, flap, onserts and ride-along piece weight, among others.

Additional rules governing addressing and messaging, poly-wrapping, belly-banding and more also apply. Understanding them thoroughly can help prevent time- and money-wasting problems.

Be sure to talk to your print provider about the rules governing your co-mail.

The benefits of co-mailing

Publishers use co-mailing to save money. It’s that simple. So before you decide to go with co-mailing, you should make sure your mailer is willing to guarantee a minimum savings. You could well save more, but at least you know you’ll come out on top.

These are a few more co-mail benefits:

  • Improved penetration of carrier routes and Flats Sequencing System, the USPS’s newest high-speed mail sorting system.
  • For smaller presorts, less pallet handling.
  • Improved condition of mailed pieces on delivery because of reduced mail handling.

Overcoming issues with co-mailing

The reasons some publishers are leery of co-mailing boil down to time and control. It takes a while to accomplish the necessary consolidation, and publishers don’t like the delay. They want their subscribers to get their periodical as soon as possible.

The answer to the slow delivery problem seems to be a matter of scheduling. It takes time to schedule trucks, for example, and it can require up to three weeks to get the publication to the subscriber’s door. But the savings can be worth the wait, so the key is finding a workaround.

These days, co-mail delivery times can be predicted with precision and you know them months in advance. You can plan your publishing processes to meet the delivery requirements. It could be well worth making the adjustment.

Some publishers also squirm a bit at the idea of turning over their payments to automatic withdrawal. They’d rather write a check. A USPS Enterprise Payment System (EPS) account is typically required for co-mailing. EPS accounts enable the transfer of payment directly from a publisher’s designated bank account.

If you already have a bulk mail permit, you can use it for co-mail and you won’t have to pay the fee, usually about $225, to set one up.

Once you have a bulk mail permit and have established an EPS account, it’s a simple matter of linking your permit number within your EPS account.

Find out how co-mailing might meet your needs

Co-mailing is not a one-size-fits-all solution. But, with a few nips and tucks, it could be a way you can achieve significant savings.

A good place to start learning about co-mailing is your printer. Chances are your printer works with many publishers who face the same challenges you do and has a good idea of the options available.

In short, co-mailing offers the opportunity to save in an area that represents a large portion of your publication expenses, and enables you to utilize those funds for other publication enhancements.

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