10 Tips for Newspapers Who Outsource Ad Production

OutsourcingThe outsourcing of print ad production, interactive services and editorial services is increasingly common among North American newspapers. The benefits have been proven over time and many publishers have achieved significant savings they have channeled into new product and content development.

When asked about a cost-effective way to create and deliver content, Journal Register Company CEO John Paton answered: "It's a two-part strategy. The first is outsourcing . . . why is outsourcing a $4 billion a year industry? Because outsourcers can do their jobs better than we do. . . . in fact, 66 percent of our cost structure is devoted to things we don't want to do. Only one-third is content creation."

If your newspaper is considering outsourcing any of these functions, here are ten tips specific to ad production (but which apply to a variety of services) that can make your transition smoother and allow you to see results more quickly.

  1. Ensure a good understanding of current and new workflows with the provider so that you can make key decisions on changes before you get too far into the implementation.
  2. Gain management buy-in. Support from management can make or break a project, as they have a huge role in getting everyone on-board. Employees will follow their lead. The goal is to reinforce that this transition is going to happen and fighting or ignoring it will only make things more difficult and prevent the achievement of immediate benefits.
  3. Prep teams (including sales and production) that the workflow will change, letting them know that they will get really great tools that will take a little effort to learn but will make their jobs easier and improve client satisfaction (for example, eProofs, AdDrop and AdWatch).
  4. Start enforcing new workflows, specifically changing the sales ordering processes. New fields will be required for input so it is a good idea to get started with this method as early as possible.
  5. Think of an offshore team as an extension of the local team, meaning that communication of day-to-day priorities is critical.
  6. Expect to do some last-minute ad changes with the local team.
  7. Begin thinking about and developing XML early on.
  8. Think of possible risks and ways to mitigate them. Identifying risks early on will help ensure they don't become reality. Discuss contingency plans with the teams.
  9. If there will be a reduction in the local team, consider talent over seniority when making decisions. Having a successful production team that works with the new outsourcing provider requires people that are not necessarily designers but have the skills to manage workflows and trafficking. If seniority is the route chosen, plan on more people to start and then gradually reduce as the team gets up-to-speed. Keeping a designer or two (depending on your volume) will be important. But if they are true creative pros, they will get bored in the new environment as it is less design-focused.
  10. Ensure you communicate that the provider is in a learning phase. It may take a couple of months to achieve the same consistency in quality and creativity as internal designers who have been doing the work for years. But the more information provided upfront, the better, and shorter the learning curve.

If you follow these tips, you can expect an easier transition and should quickly start reaping the benefits of outsourcing. Best of luck!


Comments

I understand your perspective, Jaycee. My husband lost his job to outsourcing so this hit pretty hard for me as well. What I've realized is that we live in a global economy. Americans and Canadians need to be more resourceful and creative with saving cost. For many ,many years, there was a lot of waste of newspapers and we are at a point today that it's either recognize some real cost savings or they will be out of business. I'd rather seem them succeed and close down.

typo in my last line! Meant, "I'd rather see them succeed then close down"

Outsourcing is a joke! Companies should be proud to support the members of their own country not those of a foriegn one. it is the local people that allow these companies to be successful. Its simple greed amongst those higher up.

I would be interested in some testimonials from newspapers that have instituted this - not just the bean counters, but the advertising sales people, local designers, project coordinators and customers. How much time and energy is required to manage these projects remotely? eProofs, AdWatch and AdDrop are basically front-end systems that are in and of themselves a significant cost. I'm not convinced that this is a good idea - it seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face and a temporary relief at best. May the displaced designers find new jobs where their talents are valued.

Thank you for your comment and sorry for the delay in responding--the comment was stuck in moderation and we didn't notice it. While we can't release names of clients and their publications without permission, we have several recent statements on our website, ranging from decision makers to client production personnel to local designers. For example, this is from a sales assistant: "I have a confession to make. When the prospect of Affinity Express came into play, I was totally skeptical. Well, what a surprise it has been! My proofs are back in a timely manner, are professionally done and all requests and done perfectly. Please thank Affinity Express for proving me wrong! I look forward to working with them in the future." Our clients don't have a significant upfront cost or capital expenditure for our cloud-based technology, as it is included in the volume-based transaction rate for our services. If fact, the savings rate for our multimedia publishing clients is 40% to 60%. Plus, we empower clients to expand into a full range of digital services their local advertisers want, including websites, mobile, video, daily deals, social media and more; without having to learn numerous new tools and systems from different providers.

It's easy to paint the outsourcing of local jobs as positive when that's your job and you're getting paid to do so. I'm still in touch with some folks who still work at our local newspaper, which is one of your clients as I mentioned before, and the fat cats at the top are still gainfully employed there. The urgency to cut costs or go broke conveniently stopped at those six figure salaries, while the people who produced the actual product being sold were canned and their jobs were outsourced to Pune, India by your company. There's nothing to be proud of here by Affinity, or by my previous employer, as it has just bought some more time for the fat cats to wallow in their excesses. I know I'm having this dialogue with someone who is towing the party line and this very reply is a total waste of my time and effort, but I can't help but point out the stupidity and short-sightedness of outsourcing jobs in small communities where minimum wage and poverty go hand-in-hand. You may think you know who has invested in your company, but, unless you are a forensic accountant, you may not know for sure.

The real sad part of all of this outsourcing is that local community newspapers are using Affinity Express (specifically a well-known Ontario community newspaper chain) while still reciting the mantra "Shop Locally" or "please support our local advertisers", the said local advertisers still having to pay the ridiculous line rate they always have without reaping the cost saving benefits of outsourcing. It is widely believed that Affinity Express is partly owned by a well-known Ontario newspaper chain and the money saved with outsourcing effectively goes back into the greedy hands of owners, stock holders, and management. The local graphic designers who lost their jobs now can't shop locally because they have no income, especially in markets where a newspaper chain has a monopoly of various print products, and there's no other similar opportunities in that town. If the mom and pop advertisers knew about this, they'd be enraged. I know if I were an advertiser in my local town and I was paying through the nose for ad space, only to find out that local newspaper jobs were being sent offshore for a fraction of a Canadian salary, saving the company untold millions of dollars but those savings not being passed on to me, the client, I'd boycott the newspaper, stop advertising, and take out a Facebook page to spread the word to my fellow advertisers. Hey, there's an idea! The problem starts with a company's crazy pursuit of double digit profits and then there's no stopping the Greed Train from going wherever it flagrantly demands to go, including India and the Philippines. You can put a spin on outsourcing any way you want, but the reality is, outsourcing Canadian jobs to India from small communities will have disastrous effects on the Canadian public for years and years to come.

Thank you for your comment. I don't know about the specifics at company you reference, but I can understand the frustration when people see local jobs go away. Many years ago, I was laid off from my first three positions because the companies closed unprofitable divisions or shut their doors completely. Regardless of the industry, businesses have been folding or relocating for cost savings, tax advantages and other benefits forever.

More recently, the global economy evolved and we see the same thing happening between countries. Jobs that can be done at a lower cost (whether by a less-tenured employee in the same office or a person thousands of miles away) will move sooner or later. But this is why we can buy shirts for $20 instead of $200—because manufacturers leverage different sources to be more competitive. And we all benefit, whether we're buying pens, computers or printers.

Since our company began, many of our clients had to urgently cut costs or they would not survive. That means many more local jobs would have been lost, along with all the revenue generated in the community. By outsourcing, they were able to transform the way they did business, whether that meant saving money to invest in growing new digital services, accessing technology to make them more efficient without capital expenditures, gaining skills to expand their service offering, empowering their salespeople to sell more and so on.

It is easy to paint the practice of outsourcing as negative. But there are many sides to the practice and the dialog should continue so that we all get a three-dimensional view and make our own informed conclusions.

Regarding the ownership of Affinity Express, we are a U.S.-headquartered company owned by LiveIt Investments, Ltd., the group within Ayala Corporation that invests in companies that provide complex business services. Ayala Corporation is one of the largest conglomerates in the Philippines. No publisher in Canada or anywhere else has invested in our company.

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