In 2011, we launched editorial services for news publishing clients. I recently had a chance to sit down with Affinity Express Managing Editor Alan Bonini and Vice President of Operations Kristin Meidell to get their perspective on the industry and the future. Outsourcing accelerates publishers' ability to establish production hubs, re-purpose content, focus on critical value creation activities and cut costs. But I wanted to hear what Kristin and Alan had to say, as they are talking with clients every day and hearing directly about the pain points of news publishers.
What are the current challenges for publishers in terms of editorial?
KM: In markets in North America copy editing and paginating are being combined under one person. Very few papers have many pure paginators anymore. News publishers have started trimming their own operations and want multi-tasking people. We've been able to respond to this demand by starting with pagination and moving into both services.
Has the service been well received by publishers?
KM: Publishers have been most receptive. In contrast, editorial departments do not usually welcome the idea of outsourcing functions. Instead, they want to do everything they can to reduce expenses internally.
For example, newspapers used to have people dedicated only to value-added sections such as travel, food, home guides, etc. Those departments have been collapsing to comprise fewer people. Where there was once a food editor, food paginator, travel editor, travel paginator, etc., now these functions are probably all done by the same person.
Why do you think outsourcing of editorial support services makes sense in today's publishing industry?
AB: The first reason to outsource editorial is cost reduction. However, quality is a critical consideration. Editors have to be satisfied with the work they receive. In addition, the papers all have a unique voice that must be maintained.
Through outsourcing, we can help newspapers become more localized and local content is key to differentiation. Publishers can coordinate national content like wire stories, major sports, etc., through one center. By spending less time on national stories, newspapers get more focus on local.
KM: I agree that the major benefit we offer is cost savings but I really want to stress that we also give newspapers the chance to become more localized. By outsourcing things that can be done by others, a news publisher can concentrate resources on things that only be done by the internal team.
AB: What decision-makers need to hear is: quality, fast turn times and local voice.
How is quality measured for editorial?
AB: It feels like we measure turn times down to the millisecond, as it's critical we do not take longer to produce than clients' internal team members. We also have style sheets/books. To ensure quality, every team member is dedicated to a single title, there is a minimum of one backup for every person and we have a pool of operators for support.
Two operators proof work and then it is escalated for team leader review. Any errors are recorded and counted against the team member who completed the work so we can implement corrective action plans. We also get issue reports from clients and analyze them daily.
What does Affinity Express offer publishers that they can't get elsewhere?
KM: The advantages we have are low cost, proven success in the industry and the ability for clients to broaden into other outsourced services. Plus, we have Alan, an experienced North American managing editor running our operation in Manila.
AB: Thanks, Kristin. I agree that our North American expertise sets us apart. Plus we are the only company that actually produces offshore, providing us with a distinct financial edge that is attractive to clients.
KM: On top of that, we have proven we are great partners to streamline and cut expenses and provide alternatives to high-cost newspaper resources. We understand newspapers and their challenges and we understand outsourcing. We are the company to move them into the next level of success.
With editorial services, we have to work closely with clients to figure out what works for them and how both companies can benefit.
Do you have any words of advice for publishers?
AB: Publishers may have concerns about the viability of offshore outsourcing for editorial. We are working to prove that it is not only possible; it is extremely beneficial from the perspectives of cost and efficiency.