Editorial Process Outsourcing

I don’t see a lot of hits for “editorial process outsourcing” in Google — but this is exactly what we do.

Publications have been doing outsourcing for a long, long time. Mostly, they just outsource the development of content. They use freelance writers and freelance photographers, and they buy photos and articles from agencies.

Editorial process outsourcing takes this a step further, by providing additional services on top of the content itself.

For example, Relaxnews is a Paris-based outfit that provides high-end lifestyle content — they can do a complete magazine for you, writing, art, photos, layout, the whole thing. I’m currently working with one of their former editors, Fanny Landrieu, to start a similar agency in Shanghai.

This is different from bespoke news agencies, such as Israel-based Abbey Content, which provides editorial services for US newspapers, and U.K.-based International News Services Ltd., which provides high-end financial articles and other content written specifically for individual clients.

We did start out as a bespoke news agency, covering the emerging markets for individual US publications. Today, however, we provide more services — we run entire bureaus for our clients, including accreditation, recruiting, training and managing staff, covering beats, assigning articles, copyediting and fact-checking.

Here at Trombly Ltd. (at tromblyltd dot com) we cover mostly emerging markets for US business publications. In addition to providing articles, we also do photos, fact-checking, and copyediting for our clients, and are rapidly moving up the value chain to provide more services. With writers and editors in China, India, the Philippines, we cover Asia extensively, but also handle Russia and Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East through an ever-expanding pool of trained freelancers.

In the U.S. and Europe, many providers do even more — they will produce an entire publication, or supplement, for a client.

This is not something that’s talked a lot about. Publications tend to want to control the content they publish. As a result, many of these outsourcing projects are limited to special sections, supplements, or advertorial inserts. Outsourcing these sections helps to distance them from the main editorial content of the publication, which is especially important for advertorial sections.

But outsourcing can also bring in additional expertise that in-house staff might not have, and can reduce fixed costs. At a time when advertising can increase or decrease sharply, outsourcing parts of a publication can reduce the number of staff on long-term contracts, and reduce the need for layoffs during downturns.

Yesterday, I met with Kerry Kennery, of ITV-Asia, for lunch. Before starting up his online business channel, he used to launch magazines for a living. He’s got about a dozen magazines off the ground in his previous life. He says that magazine publishers need to be aware of the business they’re in — they’re in the advertising sales business. Everything else can be outsourced.

Too many publishers, he says, spend too much time micromanaging content.

I agree with him. Publishers are highly-paid people. Their time is worth a lot — they should be spending it where it’s going to have the most impact. That means, meeting with potential advertisers.

Editors and writers are low-paid people. They’re artistic, creative types. Pick the best team you can for the budget you’ve got, set clear objectives, then let them go do their thing.

As an additional bonus, the less interference from advertising into the editorial process, the better the editorial content will be, and the more trust the readers will have in what they read.

In the old days, a publication had to keep everything in-house because the logistics of coordinating advertising and layout and distribution were unwieldy unless everyone was in the same building.

Today, with electronic delivery of documents and virtual workflows, there’s no reason for publishing companies to remain vertically integrated.

In Shanghai.