Recession has seen the newspaper industry trim its flab in terms of the number of pages and, of course, the staff. At the World Editor’s Forum 2009, the issue was discussed and debated in the session ‘Shrinking newsroom: Is editorial outsourcing the solution?’. The panelists comprising Arun Jethmalani, CEO, ValueNotes; Tony Joseph, CEO and Co-founder, Mindworks, Global Media Services; John Spencer, Managing Editor, Press Association, UK; and Stella Dawson, Editor, Global Treasuries, Reuters, UK made presentations that made it amply clear that outsourcing some of the ‘packaging’ functions of a newsroom could be part of the solution. The session was moderated by Alejandro Miro Quesada, Director, Cosas Internacional, Peru.
Arun Jethmalani of ValueNotes kicked off the session with his insight on outsourcing editorial functions and the nuances of it. “Newspapers should look at outsourcing strategically and not tactically,” he said. He further emphasised that it was part of a strategic decision of a company and that it could enhance the efficiency of the organisation if implemented in a planned way.
John Spencer of Press Association took the thought forward and shared his experience and learning of actually off-shoring work of British and North American publications to their centres in Mangalore and Pune in India. Some of the key things that he said one would have to keep in mind regarding outsourcing were complete understanding of the editorial and work flow process before initiating the outsourcing function, complete support from business leaders, and business sense. “If you are not saving 30-40 per cent of your cost across all functions and not only editorial, it won’t make sense to outsource the functions,” he said while explaining the challenges.
Tony Joseph of Mindworks stressed on the point that in today’s challenging scenario, outsourcing repetitive editorial process of newspapers was the key to maintaining their core proposition and position for the future. “It allows you to re-focus the organisation and get ready for the future,” he said. Concerns of quality, constraints of loss of control and resistance to dramatic change were three key concerns that newspapers had in going forward with the outsourcing process, he said.
Stella Dawson of Reuters then gave a perspective that their news agency had moved beyond giving wholesale news in a platter at the door steps of publications to actually customising solutions based on the needs and design of the newspaper. She gave the example of their association with International Herald Tribune on a similar model. “Partnering does not have to be off-shoring, but can be developed with working with the right partner,” she said.