From the Office…

   New Member Benefit

I’m excited to announce a new member benefit that’s going to benefit your sales team immensely! It’s an online tool that uses your CVC readership audit data to create a one page proposal your sales people can share with potential clients.

MFCP members that participate in the MCN ad program and have an up-to-date audit can begin using this tool immediately – free of charge!  Once trained, the readership data for your publication is uploaded to our database.  User’s login to the database – and click on the tool.  Based on your login information the system knows what paper data to draw from.

You select the product category, modular or column inch, and the number of run weeks.  The system then creates a one-page sell sheet that details the complete cost of the run and the number of new customers an advertiser must attract in order to pay for the ad campaign.

I’ve been holding training sessions via Zoom with some sales teams. A typical session takes less than 20 minutes.  I’m happy to train one person or one hundred.  Whatever works for you and your team!

You can use the link below to reserve a time slot for next week…

If these dates and times aren’t convenient please contact me directly and we’ll find a time that works best for you and your team.

Happy selling!




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!


Social media is more social then a source of news

Community newspaper publishers shouldn’t worry that social media will force them down the road of last century’s buggy whip factories.
Buggy whips were manufactured for just one purpose. There was little demand for them when automobiles replaced the horse-drawn buggy.
Community newspapers, however, serve many needs and provide their most essential service far better than any independent website or social media page.
Hometown publications are credible. All the information published in a hometown paper is carefully researched, written and edited by committed professionals who put reporting facts ahead of being popular influencers. Those newspaper reporters and editors are local community members who are easily accessible walking down the street, in the coffee shops, at Friday night’s high school game and in church on Sunday. They interact with their readers every day and cannot afford to purposely make a misstatement or draw a wrong conclusion. Readers of the newspaper are fast to point out any errors, omissions or half-truths.
That accessibility is not always available with the blog writers and paid influencers pouring their words and undocumented ideas into the community. They often color their so-called news with personal opinion, misdirection or information favorable to their sponsors. Fortunately, many progressive, profitable, hometown publications operate in communities too small to have any serious social media information sites.
Still, in December’s e-mail I suggested four reasons weekly newspaper might not survive if the larger metro publications fail. In this edition of “Get Real” I’d like to offer four different reasons why community newspapers and shoppers should and could exist through any number of future digital revolutions.

  1. Hometown newspapers create community. History, scripture and human experience have proved that man was never meant to live alone gazing at a computer screen. Life can be best enjoyed and effective when members of a community interact face-to-face visiting, working, relaxing, worshipping and achieving together as one body. Community newspapers encourage that face-to-face involvement by keeping readers updated on the important local happenings that are discussed each morning around the office water cooler. More notably, local newspapers promote interaction by drawing attention to the efforts of the local high school teams, sharing what will be new and exciting about an upcoming city celebration or perhaps through the announcement of the opening of a new business. Social media, with its multitude of competing messengers can’t do those things. Only the local paper, lovingly nurtured and published, reaches a broad enough audience to accomplish such magic.
  2. Community newspapers assure consistency. It is difficult, if not impossible, to retrieve a message once heard on the radio, seen on television or discovered on the internet. But finding something earlier read in the hometown paper is easy. Many homes keep their copy up to two weeks after it is published. School and public libraries keep file copies anywhere from a month to a full year. Most newspapers still archive copies in bound volumes that are made available to the public at no charge.
    Got a question about a city motion, huge fire or big game 10 years ago? It isn’t easy to obtain the information at the radio or television studio. It is possible to find it online, although it might require hours of searching. But if it was printed in the hometown paper, and just about everything that happens is, the details can quickly be found in a saved clipping in a desk or file drawer or by obtaining a photocopy from the newspaper.
  3. Newspapers provide encouragement as well as criticism. Newspaper don’t just report the news they support ideas that are good for the community. They also question ones that seem to fall short. Those comments are published on the editorial pages which often endorse and cheerlead wise decisions as well as question those that appear bad. It’s those opinions and editorials that help drive community thought and consensus. While some single-idea blogs and websites work to split the town apart, the newspaper, of all media, is the only one committed to bringing all citizens to having one mind regarding the making of the best decision for the majority of the community.
  4. Newspapers follow a story to its completion. Unlike most other media which focuses on breaking news and hot topics, the community newspaper follows a story to the very end. Subscribers get the what, where, who and why from the newspaper even if the final chapter doesn’t happen for months. Radio, television and the internet sites don’t do that. Their news jumps from hour to hour like a child’s balloon in the wind. With the electronic media, breaking news often becomes old news before another hour passes.
    So, what do those who still believe in the printed newspaper do to improve the current situation and to secure a positive future?
    The truth is it is going to take a great deal of work. Overall, the publishing industry has let the naysayers shout their untruths for too long without making an adequate response. Television networks, most especially CBS, have boldly reported the decline of print numbers while hiding their huge loss of viewing numbers under a bushel basket. The newspaper industry lacks a national voice like “60 Minutes” to shine a light on the traditional network viewer’s deflection to a still growing number of cable channels.
    Advertising on Facebook is limited by Facebook to as few as 25 percent of those who have “liked” that business.
    Only newspapers can provide a certified list of what homes actually receive a client’s message any specific day or week.
    Still, sharing that message with the local community is not enough to save and grow the newspaper industry. The competition in local communities has grown immensely since newspapers had an exclusive lock on local advertising in the 1950s. Publishers are going to have to invest more in their news, creative and advertising sales teams to succeed. No company has ever saved itself into success.
    Advertising managers are going to have to create more fresh and unique promotions, packages and special sections to get their share of local advertising dollars. Salespeople are going to have to stop selling by sending out e-mail and get back on the street where big decisions are made, and it is possible to sense a shift in the local marketing direction before it happens.
    Newspapers aren’t dead and they never will be. There will always be proud grandmothers who appreciate clippings of their family to hang on the refrigerator. There will always be fans who want all the details of Friday’s game. There will always be watchdogs who want to know what is happening at city hall and the schools in an organized, edited package.
    It is true newspaper can’t compete with Google and Facebook in their bigger world. But it is also true Goggle and Facebook don’t have the connections or influence of hometown papers in their market.

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