From the Office…

   Schedule a site visit…

Now that the winter weather is behind us it’s time for me to hit the road!

I’m planning to make a couple of trips this year with the goal of visiting as many member publications as I can. The purpose of my trip is to make connections and to better understand what our members are wanting from MFCP.

Another reason for my visit will be to share info with the sales teams so they are comfortable selling and entering classified and display ads into our system.

Can I put you down for a site visit?  If so, please click the link below and select the day of the week that will work best for you.  I’ll add you to the schedule and do all I can to make it to your market.

I hope to hear from you soon!


Update your SRDS listings.

Don’t forget to update your SRDS listing this spring.  Buyers are accessing SRDS data every day. Make sure yours is up to date!  To login to the system use the following:

Username: PROMOTE

Password: MUSEUMS

Note:  This password expires at the end of the week. So, do it today!


I received an email the other day from a person that loves the Vikings and enjoys writing about them.

He’s offering a column for a trial period that may be of interest to your readers. Below is the info that he sent me:

Hi, I’m Jordan, owner of Wright Media, and I have been writing Vikings articles for over a decade!  I am trying something new due to the awesome feedback received from small town newspapers JUST LIKE YOU!

Seriously, check out the review below…

“As a Vikings fan myself I knew I’d enjoy reading Jordan’s weekly column, but it became apparent rather quickly from the comments I’ve heard that many of my subscribers enjoy his column also. Jordan seems to have “inside” information on all the Vikings news from top to bottom that you may not learn from any other sources, making his column rather unique.”

-Troy Schwans, Bridgewater Tribune

Because I am confident in our articles I’ve decided to give them away for free to a limited number of newspapers to use as you please! NO STRINGS ATTACHED.

The newspapers we currently partner with have seen their audience grow and have become loyal partners of ours, we feel you will too as the readers absolutely love it!

So what’s in it for me? I feel that your newspaper and audience will like these articles so much the next few months that after our trial period you will come back for more.

Grab our most recent article here:

Feel free to read it, and even use it in your newspaper!!

Our May publishers’ call will be held Thursday, May 13th at 9AM.  Our featured revenue idea will be: Community Newsletters –by Greg Birkett.

The Zoom info stays the same from month to month. It is shown below.


Time: Thursday, May 13th at 9AM

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 895 3672 7860

Passcode: 626106

Dial by your location

+1 929 205 6099 US (New York)

+1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC)

+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)

+1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)

+1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)

+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)


APRIL 2021

Papers can’t depend on retail advertisers to survive

Publishers looking to reboot their markets following the pandemic need to recognize the retail sector is no longer their best revenue source.
The recent demise of one Minnesota newspaper, the Warroad Pioneer, is well documented in the April, issue of Reader’s Digest magazine.
I have personal knowledge of the Pioneer story because I spent two days working with Warroad Pioneer publisher Rebecca Golden in 1999, speaking for her with the community on how she and local businesses might thrive.
Warroad, like much of America, is a small community. The region is known for its great fishing, internationally acclaimed hockey stars and an excellent high school hockey team.
The community has a decent number of small retail businesses for its size, but many of them depend on the tourist trade, not the local residents, to exist. The local supermarket distributes its weekly preprint in an out-of-town shopper and the only new car dealer, once a regular major advertiser, is investing most of its dollars into online advertising.
Golden published a good paper. It was well written and nicely designed. But her dependence on retail advertising was her Achilles’ heel. It wasn’t that the majority of local stores didn’t want to support her, they just thought they didn’t need to advertise to locals they believed were already “loyal” customers. Most didn’t understand how important a local paper is to holding a community together. Warroad’s local businesses either forgot, or were never taught, the importance of TOMA (Top of Mind Awareness) and the marketing axiom “Seventy-five percent of your customers live within 25 miles of your front door.”
All across America newspapers and free circulation publications are facing the same situation. Most national and regional chain stores, once a lucrative source of revenue, have deserted smaller communities. The small, local boutiques that replaced them are often poorly informed regarding the reach of digital advertising, too tightly financed to afford traditional advertising and are more of a hobby for the owner than a business.
So where does today’s publisher turn for new revenue? And what can a paper’s ad manager do to increase the company’s bottom line?
In our mostly rural communities, we’ve turned to the service providers, local manufacturing firms and once overlooked professionals as fresh revenue sources. Locally owned banks and credit unions as well as full-service insurance agencies are good examples of service providers that continue to be excellent potential advertisers.
Others include locally managed hospitals and medical facilities, home construction and sales organizations, privately owned colleges, universities and regional community colleges. The city itself, the local chamber of commerce, community celebrations and annual event organizations as well as the economic development director also are emerging sources for new advertising dollars.
These are major dollar advertisers who understand that the local newspaper is key to creating community and a spirit of consensus. Without a strong, united community those businesses have a limited future with a declining number of clients, students, employees and attendees. It also will lead to a diminishing tax base. These resources have the deep pockets and good reason to underwrite the future of their hometown paper.
But it doesn’t stop there. Local, smaller professionals from the fancy-cuts men’s barbershop to local CPA and law firms are becoming good community supports and local paper advertisers.
Still, harvesting those new dollars requires creativity and a commitment to more one-of-a-kind special sections and numerous weekly community support pages.
Special projects and sections which draw strong support from the first group of advertisers include tabloid or multi-page salutes to law enforcement officers, volunteer or city firefighters, health-care workers (including the EMT volunteers) in your area and even the members of your local FFA and 4-H chapters.
Other ideas include “(Town Name), An All-American City” and “All Roads Lead To (Town Name).”
The “All-American City” project features articles about nationally recognized people — military, political, religious, business leaders — born in your community as well as nationally known products, practices and cultural changes that originated in your town.”
“All Roads Lead To” is a guide of exciting experiences that can be found by driving into your community via key highways located on each side of town.
Both sections, and many others like them, have been well received and supported by local-minded businesses that appreciate sections that promote the history, fun and value of living in their town.
We do a different approach to the annual summer series in our N’West Iowa REVIEW each year. The multiweek series usually includes coverage of 12-14 communities in our four-county area.
The smaller businesses on the second list — as well as many traditional advertisers — are excellent prospects for regular monthly pages that provide a consistent, contracted advertising package at an economical predetermined cost. Some such pages include 6-pacs, 8-pacs, monthly professional page, our Home Improvement page, the “I believe in (your town)” sponsored page and our A to Z Business Directory.
Even more exceptional dollars are available by selling an unlimited number of once-a-year salute pages promoting everything from Easter Sunday church service schedules to homecoming courts to annual celebration ideas.
So, take a big breath and put a smile on your face. There continues to be a strong future for community papers. We simply need to direct our attention to the advertisers that believe in the community and the value of the hometown paper. It will require hard work and fresh thinking, but the survival of the printed paper is well worth the effort.

Forward this email to your friends and associates!

Peter W. Wagner is founder and publisher of the award winning Sheldon, IA, N’West Iowa REVIEW and 13 additional publications. This free monthly GET REAL newsletter is produced  especially for publishers, editors and sales managers who still believe in the value and importance of the PRINTED paper. CLICK HERE, to also receive Wagner’s free PAPER DOLLARS email newsletter featuring a unique sales ideas and promotions. The two monthly email newsletters contain information completely different from each other. You can contact Wagner can be contacted at or (CELL) 712-348-355 for information regarding his convention programs and webinars on publishing better papers and enjoying greater profit.

Executive Director
Saturation Mailers Coalition
33 S 6th Street, Suite 4160
Minneapolis, MN 55402
(612) 340-9855
(612) 340-9466/fax
Copyright 2020


In last month’s INK, my column shared the “just announced” USPS Postal Rate Filing.  This month I can share a chart showing the current, future, and percentage differences for rates for Saturation Flat Mail, the type of mail most frequently used by free papers.

No, your eyes are not deceiving you.  For most types of saturation mail, including mailings up to the four-ounce break point, or heavier mailings, free papers will see no increase in the basic rate they pay for saturation flat mail delivered to any of the Postal Service entry points, whether sent by EDDM commercial (what we used to call simplified), or saturation regular rate flats prepared with an address.  In recognition of the COVID-19 market disruptions and hardships that shared mailers and free papers publishers faced, along with saturation coupon envelopes and coupon magazines, it seems the Postal Service exercised restraint and did not increase the basic rate for any of these programs.

As predicted and feared, the Postal Service continued to be reasonably aggressive in efforts to increase the cost of detached address label (DAL) or detached marketing label (DML).  Any card that accompanies a mailing with a marketing or advertising message, will increase in rates from today’s current rate of five cents per card to six cents per card.  For mailers that have relied on DMLs to help cover their costs of mailing costs, this results in a practical rate increase of 4.69 percent in postage costs.  The Postal Service officials handling operations, marketing, and pricing have consistently maintained that the DAL or DML is a separate “cost driver” for the Postal Service, and that the card has not been “covering its costs.”  Although publishers and mailers using the card have pointed out that the Postal Service should consider all combined revenues from a shared mail package, such as a free paper or a shared mail coupon magazine sent with the card (because you cannot mail a DML without the full package) (a profitable product when combined rates and costs are considered) the Postal Service has consistently argued in past years’ rate filings that it needs to raise the card rates to cover card costs.  But for mailers that do not use a DML/DAL card, or mail to several zones or areas without a card, the 2021 price adjustment will result in no rate increase.

The mailings that saw the higher increases in the Marketing Mail ECR category were high density regular mailings.  Carrier route flats, and high-density flats, saw rate increases of four to six percent.  In a webinar offered by the Postal Services officials on pricing, it was explained that the high density category was originally created for newspaper TMC programs, to offer a type of “blended rate,” that recognizes the market differences and customer needs used by newspapers that were using their own carriers to deliver to subscribers, but also using a high density mail option going to nonsubscribers.

Over the years, the high density regular category and the ECR basic category has been used more by co-mailers to combine a variety of customer mailings to achieve rate savings with greater density of combined pieces going to a specific carrier route or zip code.  The Postal Service argues it is not capturing real costs savings from these mailings and that offering co-mailers lower rates for simply adding more pieces to a mailing is not benefiting the Postal Service.

SMC has been advocating for separate product and rate treatment for saturation shared mail programs, whether free papers, shared mail, coupon envelopes or magazines, for several years.  When you are doing a mailing that must, based on your product type, cover every home in a geographic area, you are not able to achieve savings or postal reductions unless you cut frequency or completely trim your geography.  Saturation mailings are, by nature, all or nothing.  The general advertisers that use shared mail programs, like grocers, retailers, home services, restaurants or food are very price sensitive.  If postal rates are too high, they will cut mail spending and look at other media.

SMC believes the Postal Service, and our members, would benefit if a separate approach to shared mail pricing for saturation letters and flats was created that recognizes the incrementality of these programs.  If the Postal Service lowered the basic rate and break point, but had a gradual increase as more pieces were added to a package, it would be a “win-win” for the Postal Service and this type of advertising.  SMC will continue to advocate for separate product treatment and a recognition of the unique service and customer needs of shared mail programs in years to come.

For now, it appears that 2021 rate filing was designed to “intentionally” do no harm to free papers, shared mailers, and coupon programs that already suffered greatly due to business cutbacks and closings caused by COVID-19.

For mailers that can take advantage of the Postal Service promotions, the promotions calendar for 2021 is very similar to the promotions offered in 2020.  There will be promotions that could be used by free papers beginning in February 2021 and continuing until the end of the year.  Mailers with an eligible mail piece, can receive for an upfront two percent discount on qualifying pieces.   Hopefully, AFCP, and other free paper associations, will work together to offer promotions that can be used by their members similar to the promotions offered in 2020.

Looking ahead, 2020 could end with a postal bang.  The Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) has been “sitting on” the ten-year rate review.  Rumor has it that after the election, the PRC will be issuing an order or additional rule making proceedings, in connection with the ten-year rate review.  Last December, pre-COVID-19, the PRC had issued a proposal that would have given the USPS the right to increase postal rate over the fixed rate cap of the annual CPI.  One troubling aspect of the proposal was a suggestion that the USPS could raise prices highest for the types of mail that saw decreases in mail volumes.  In other words, as the Postal Service lost volume, it could raise prices over CPI.  Earlier this year, SMC joined with other associations and mailers to submit filings to oppose 2019 PRC proposal.

Since last year’s PRC proposal, and with COVID-19’s impact on marketing mail, a rule like the one proposed by the PRC last year would have devastating impacts on marketing mailers.

Importantly, the entire postal scene has changed greatly since December of last year.  Shipping volumes and revenues have increased.  Contrary to dire predictions, the USPS has been making money! SMC and other postal stakeholders will be prepared to vehemently oppose any rulemaking that seeks to impose a proposal like last years’ PRC recommendation.

As the year comes to an end and 2021 begins, we will be watching for a PRC announcement and prepared to respond, and potentially challenge any proposal that would add to uncertainty and increase costs for shared mail or free paper programs.

After months of fighting attacks from local states attorney generals, congress, and the media, about alleged election suppression, the Postal Service and its new management has been playing defense for the last several months.  The  new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, has had some initial meetings with postal stakeholder associations and major mailers.  DeJoy has expressed an interest to work with mailers and the associations that represent them.  Only time will tell what will be happening at the top with leadership in the weeks and months to come.


    Welcome Brad Hicks to our MFCP Board of Directors

Meet our newest board member…Brad Hicks…

Brad Hicks is joining the MFCP Board of Directors as of January 1, 2021.

A 40+ year veteran of the Free Paper industry, Brad currently serves as the Publisher of the Algona Reminder, circulation 11,200.

Brad has been a member of MFCP for the past year and a half. When asked if he had any words of wisdom for the group Brad shared the following:

I now hold a role the late Dick Plum held at Algona. Though I was at a paper about 90 miles away and only talked to Dick at conventions and the like, I never met anyone who was more full of ideas and so willing to pursue them, even if everyone said, “STOP!” As told to me, a story goes that he once did a ping pong ball drop retail promotion from the roof of a building in Algona. Because he couldn’t find colored ping pong balls at the time, he dyed them in the bathtub at his house, which resulted in the need for a new bathtub. He was all-in on his ideas. I didn’t learn that story until I came here, but it didn’t surprise me. I loved to hear his ideas, and what I take away from it is that even the kookiest ideas sometimes have a chance to be successful – though one might want to at least find out if dye is going to cause a permanent stain.


    Welcome Jodi Peterson as our 2021 MFCP Board President

A New Year brings MFCP a new president. ..

Meet Jodi Peterson, the 2021 MFCP President.

Jodi is the General Manager of the Richland Center and Wisconsin-Iowa Shopping News publications.  They have a combined circulation of just over 30,000.   The RC paper is carrier delivered while the WI-IA paper is direct mailed.

Jodi joined the RC design staff straight out of college- with a plan to stay five years and then relocate to a larger, more robust city.  29 years later (well over half her life!) she’s still there and loving every minute of it!  She’s been on the Board of Directors for the last 6 years and when I asked her for a favorite memory or words of wisdom she shared this:

MFCP is a great organization with some of the most dedicated members the industry has to offer.  That has been shown over and over again this last year as we gathered for virtual roundtables to share ideas on how to survive the 2020 pandemic. One idea in particular, shared by John Adams of Clear Lake, was for corrugated yard signs to honor the 2020 graduates.  We took that idea and ran with it in our markets and it brought in over $6,200 in revenue!

That type of learning happens every time you attend a conference or Zoom call. Rarely do you walk away without picking up a tip or idea that more than covers the cost of your time.

We’ll be hosting roundtable calls again in 2021 and hope you will participate.  Everyone has something worthwhile to share and learn!