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[boca raton, fla.] Magazine executives attending the 1999 American Magazine Conference last week reeled when hit with the news that the next postal increase could be as high as 15%.

Magazine Publishers of America members who keep an eye on postal-rate hikes had been led to believe the boost would be in single digits for 2001. A double-digit increase would dramatically affect publishers' cost structures. The possible result: lowered rate bases-the guaranteed amount of circulation promised advertisers-higher ad rates and more costs passed on to consumers.

"This is as serious an issue as any that we are going to face over the next year," said Christopher M. Little, Meredith Corp. Publishing Group president and head of the MPA's government affairs committee.

A 15% rate increase on periodicals, commonly referred to as second-class mail, would be more than double the proposed increases for first- or third-class mail. The rates for those classes of mail are expected to increase 6%.


"We strongly feel that this is unfair," said Nina Link, MPA president-CEO. "We've worked very hard to partner with the post office to find ways to reduce costs on both sides, and that is not being taken into consideration."

The U.S. Postal Service will make its recommendations to the Postal Rate Commission this month. After those recommendations are made, hearings will be held to determine if those hikes will be made.

MPA plans to lodge a formal protest during those hearings, which will continue into 2000.

The last postal rate hike was in 1997 and was just 4.6%.


"We feel the post office is not listening to magazines," said Don Logan, president-CEO of Time Inc. "We've helped them develop all kinds of labor-saving devices, and we are not getting the credit for that. We've worked to get the costs out of the system on our side, but they haven't done it on their side."

Postmaster General William J. Henderson was scheduled to met with MPA board

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