Political Direct Mail Part 1: Paper Weight

Paper Weight

Weight Issues: Paper for Direct Mail

The weight of your bulk direct mail pieces matter to the USPS. And beyond postal requirements, it may matter to you…

Paper weight effects how the mail moves through the post office workflow. The paper must have enough durability not to be torn up with the mass of other mail during handling, or by machines, etc. Thicker paper usually fares better in the mail system and is in better shape when it reaches mailboxes. It also has an impact in the hand of the reader: heavier paper is perceived as more expensive and higher-end than flimsy lighter paper.

Like other types of measurements around the world, there are different terms and formulation for paper weights (this is probably why there is confusion around the issue.)

The U.S. Basis Weight is defined as the weight of 500 sheets, known as a ream, of paper, in pounds, in its basic unit uncut size. The problem with this measurement is that different types of paper come in different basic sheet sizes, so measuring paper weight is not always measuring apples to apples.

An uncut sheet of text is 25 x 38 inches, while an uncut sheet of cover paper is 20 x 26 inches. If 500 sheets of text paper, 25 x 38 inches, weighs 60 lbs, then a ream of 8.5 x 11 sheets, will also be labeled as 60 lb paper – the 8.5 x 11 ream of paper is not actually 60lb, but the Basis Weight of the paper making up the smaller sized ream is 60 lbs. The 60 lbs translates into the sturdiness of the paper – the weight is actually just a measure of sturdiness. You often see this when you walk into Staples to buy copy paper.

There is a metric measurement that is used alongside the U.S. Basis Weight. The metric measurement (shown as GSM, grams per square meter) is the actual weight of the paper cut to 1 meter x 1 meter square sheet. GSM really provides the apples to apples comparison, as the sheet size being weighed is always the same.

The USPS does not actually tell you to use a certain weight paper, but your pieces need to fall into guidelines for the type of mail and standard you are sending. Your postage is based on you meeting the guidelines.

For example of weights and mailing:

A First Class letter that you stamp yourself cannot weigh more than 2 ounces for a 49 cents stamp. Additional weight will cause the need for additional postage.

If you send that same letter as standard presort bulk mailing – it may take longer to deliver, but the maximum weight is 3.3 ounces, and the price goes down to under 31 cents. You will need to be able meet the guidelines for bulk mailing in order to mail this way, which starts with having a list of more than 200 recipients. Most direct mail campaigns are larger than this.

In mailing, the paper weight does matter, as it effects the type of paper used as a self-mailer, the envelope, the weight of the letter and anything else you might place in the envelope such as a reply card or sticker, brochure, etc.

The USPS regulates size of the mail pieces and paper thickness as well as weight.

Stay tuned for PART 2: Size Matters