National Newspaper Association and News Media Alliance have joined forces in highlighting one of the reasons for continued poor service performance in the mail delivery of newspapers: the service performance measurement system operated by USPS does not keep track of newspapers.

NNA and NMA filed joint comments before the Postal Regulatory Commission in a docket set up by USPS to change the way the Postal Services provides its public reports for on-time service performance. Because new delivery standards go into effect in October, USPS plans to provide new categories of information for First-Class mail delivery.

NNA and NMA reminded the PRC that the Postal Service relies upon scans from automated sorting machines to compile its data on where mail is and how reliably it is delivered. But because newspapers are not generally sorted by automated sorting machines in mail plants, newspaper mail is not scanned.

USPS has been showing improved delivery of Periodicals since its disasters in fall 2020, when the combination of missing workers sheltering from COVID and a surge in package volume created major snags throughout the mail system. Its most recent service report says 79% of Periodicals were delivered on time, up 2.1% since the same time last year.

But those numbers do not include newspapers because USPS does not measure delivery of newspapers.

The lack of data is a major flaw, both in capturing the whole picture of USPS performance for regulators and in failing to give the public meaningful information on why there are delivery problems. The data deficit comes from two sources: newspapers in mail processing facilities are sorted manually and not scanned into service performance systems; and newspapers entered directly into a delivery unit are not handled in mail processing at all. None of that mail, it appears, gets counted in USPS service data.

NNA and NMA are urging the PRC to require disclosure of how much mail is not measured and of steps USPS is taking to bring mail like newspapers into the measurement systems.

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