The 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- Think of an offshore team as an extension of the local team, meaning that communication of day-to-day priorities is critical.
- Expect to do some last-minute ad changes with the local team.
- Begin thinking about and developing XML early on.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!