Benefits to community newspapers from the U.S. Postal Service’s proposed mandatory use of a “full-service” Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMb) are meager and do not justify the substantial investment in the technology, the National Newspaper Association told the Postal Service Monday.

USPS is considering a new requirement for the use of a full-service IMb after January 2014 for newspapers that want to claim automation mail processing discounts. NNA’s Postal Committee Chair Max Heath has long questioned the value of the full-service IMb, which attaches an individual identifier to each newspaper. USPS wants these tracking codes on the mail so it can measure service and provide data back to mailers, such as address changes.

But the software and implementation can be tricky for a smaller newspaper, Heath told USPS. Much larger mailers with information technology departments have struggled with the installations and training, he said.

Community newspapers are already facing a January 2013 requirement to upgrade to a simpler IMb, which codes in certain mailer information but does not track individual mailpieces. NNA’s objection is to requiring a second upgrade, which USPS once said would be forever optional but now wishes to require for all mail.

Heath detailed the reasons for newspapers’ lack of enthusiasm for the more sophisticated IMb.

The technology’s most useful data are provided by scanning each mailpiece as it travels through mail processing equipment. But much newspaper mail is handled manually, so scans would elude most NNA members’ mail.

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