Few would deny that the very nature of publishing is undergoing significant changes. Developments are coming from all directions, and are having wide-ranging effects. Likely the most notable way that publishing is currently evolving is in regard to the rise of digital. While the burgeoning popularity of eBooks is the most obvious example of this trend, digital is also having a tremendous impact on every type of publisher, including those focusing on magazines, newspapers, textbooks and more.
While the latter may be tempting, it may have extremely negative, costly consequences, some of which were recently highlighted by industry expert Andy Kowl for Publishing Executive.
As Kowl noted, when the exclusive format for publishing was paper, newspapers and magazines tended to have very different business models. Magazines would typically outsource the actual printing of their products, but major newspapers would own their printing presses. This made sense, considering their need for daily editions, local distribution and quick turnaround.
As newspapers have begun to increasingly focus on digital, however, this model has started to collapse, according to Kowl. He noted that both The New York Times and Financial Times recently laid off many workers, the vast majority of whom worked in the editorial or business departments. The IT department, on the other hand, seems to have been relatively unscathed.
This is a worrying trend. As Kowl pointed out, newspapers and other publishers that are trying to keep digital content production in-house are suffering. They are being forced to allocate a growing percentage of their shrinking budgets to IT staffing and resources. This, the writer suggested, is gradually degrading the nature of such publishers, as they become less focused on journalism, reporting, entertainment and the like and instead become inherently dedicated to technology.
"Sure, technology is critical to our business. For what business is it not?" wrote Kowl. "Maybe we need to use technology more than most - but must we be technology?"
Responding to Kowl's arguments, Bo Sacks of The Precision Media Group asserted that this trend should be seen as an argument in favor of outsourcing. Essentially, in-house digital content production is very similar to owning a printing press: While there are certain publishers for which this is a reasonable course of action, most will find it to be a major drain on resources and abilities. By choosing to invest in in-house solutions, a publisher essentially locks itself into that model and the inevitable expenses and problems which it entails.
By outsourcing digital content production, however, firms can enjoy much greater flexibility.
"Outsourced work can be re-negotiated, constantly updated and or re-resourced," wrote Sacks.
As digital content continues to grow in importance for publishers of all kinds, outsourced content production solutions will likely rise in popularity, as well.