Mailing Basics: What is a Periodical?

photoHow well do you know your United States Postal Service mail classes? It’s probably not a question you’ll be asked in an elevator, in the checkout line at the grocery store, or at a cocktail party, but an occasional review of the regulations is definitely worth the time it takes to read this blog.

Let’s focus specifically on Periodicals as this class of mail is relevant to many scholarly publishers. According to USPS rules:

The Periodicals class of mail is designed for newspapers, magazines, and other periodical publications whose primary purpose is transmitting information to an established list of subscribers or requesters. Periodicals must be published at regular intervals, at least four times a year from a known office of publication, and be formed of printed sheets. There are specific standards for circulation, record keeping, and advertising limits. There are special lower postage prices for Nonprofit, Science-of-Agriculture, and Classroom Periodicals.

In addition, there is no minimum weight but there is a maximum weight of 70 lbs.

Regarding the standards for circulation mentioned in the statement above, did you know that the statement of ownership for Periodicals mailing includes electronic copies in the total circulation calculated? Technically known as PS Form 3526-R, Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation (Requester Publications Only), the form was updated in 2012 to allow claims for electronic copies to count towards total circulation if 50% of all distributed print and electronic copies are paid above a nominal price. To calculate the total circulation, a PS Form 3256 worksheet is required.

For more information on Periodicals and other mailing classes, regulations, and procedures, see Business Mail 101 on the USPS website.  

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