After initiating changes in layout, design and content, Vijay Times is back to reinvent itself. In a bid to offer a greater mix in its content and presentation, the daily is now looking at outsourcing as a serious option. While top Vijay Times officials look at it as the perfect monotony-buster, other players are skeptical about the model's ultimate results.
According to Ramanand Bhat, Director, Vijay Times, the concept of reader-loyalty has long ceased to exist. "The minute someone makes an offering that is new, exciting and different, today's consumers will make a prompt shift," he commented. Based on this trend, the newspaper is now warm with the idea of outsourcing. "We, like most organisations, have encouraged freelancing for a long period of time. But now we have decided to go a step further and invite people to work on an entire page," he explained. According to this arrangement, an independent party is given the responsibility of not only organising content for the page, but also taking decisions on its layout and presentation. While the paper is open to outsourcing any of its sections, it plans to make a start with its supplements.
Likening his proposed model to the one being used in other industries, Bhat, brushes aside doubts on issues like quality control and consistency. "Consistency, as in uniformity, is a thing of the past. Today readers get bored when our matter and style get predictable. By outsourcing, we are sure that different styles and ideas are offered which will in turn retain our readers' interest," he justified. He added that a certain standard would be maintained, as each copy would need editorial approval before going to print.
But this optimism has not permeated across the industry. While KN Shanth Kumar, Director and Editor, Deccan Herald, declined to comment saying his paper had not looked at the option. According to Chinnen Das, Director, The Times Of India, while his newspaper had explored the option in a few response supplements and one-time features, it had not applied to any frequency offering. "We would like to believe that our journalists have a certain standing of their own which would help us work on the paper internally," he opined. Raising heavier issues, he questioned the model's ability in maintaining credibility, quality and ensuring that no vested interests would be promoted.
Voicing the belief of many, who see outsourcing as an easy method of cutting costs in terms of trimming fulltime staff, Das added: "While it would be an ideal option for fund-depleted organisations, I am not sure if someone in a leadership position would want to encourage such a trend." Defending his decision, Bhat stated that outsourcing was not seen as a replacement of internal staff, but as a complementary force. He claimed that as staff workloads would decrease, their output quality would automatically improve.
Whether or not the option is a sign of things to come, it is a question that can find no ready answers. Vijay Times, on its part is actively seeking parties to carry out its idea and is hoping that the plan would not only create a state of constant novelty, but would also ensure a stream of new blood. "We are a fairly young organisation and we feel that we can experiment and constantly reinvent ourselves. We expect this to not only retain our readers but encourage new ones to join us," he said.