Reed Business Information turning more to offshoring

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John Blanchard joined Reed Business Information in 1998 and oversees its U.S. graphic design, production, prepress and distribution departments. He is also chairman of American Business Media's Production/Manufacturing Technology Committee. Media Business: How are you trying to cut down on costs? John Blanchard: We're starting a new program with one of our printers, having them look at performance production functions for us. So we're looking at the tasks that we classify as production and breaking them down into those that we want to retain and allowing the printer to move a little further upstream in the process to do the layout or insert ads into the book. Some combination of technology will allow our processes to join, essentially breaking down the barriers of networks and infrastructure and so forth, allowing them to join as active participants in our work flow. MB: What is the dividing line between what is yours and what is theirs? Blanchard: Customer contact. We want to be a single point of contact for all production issues for both print and electronic for our customers. We're merging what traditionally had been print production versus Web operations. We'll retain customer contact; we'll do the materials collection, making sure agencies and customers are sending to ad portals compliant materials. While we do that migration and manage the retraining of our talent, we're offloading some of the print production responsibilities. MB: How much do you offshore? Blanchard: Tons, and more coming. We are now working with multiple vendors in India to create editorial pages. They're paginating content for us; they're copy-editing. We're starting to resource companies that are capable of doing market research and provide publish-ready content for us as well as to increase the amount of content we can manage and publish online and increase inventory for sale. MB: Many publishers are bringing everything in-house to save money, but Reed is outsourcing. Blanchard: We were there about five years ago. We found any number of ways to save money by internalizing responsibility. Now, we're actually putting it back out again, looking at divesting ourselves of resources, refocusing our key production and creative managers to be in control of the process as opposed to doing it themselves and utilizing lower costs and resources wherever they happen to be, domestic or offshore, and some combination for that matter. MB: What's next? Blanchard: We've spent the last five years doing all we can in co-manufacturing, by standardizing all our products into a minimum number of categories in terms of paper weight and grade, trim size and so forth. Now, I think the industry has done a pretty good job of pooling magazines for co-mailing. I would advocate that also has to happen for co-manufacturing. That might be naive, but I think it will be a great help if we leverage our industrywide capacity to get better pricing in both material costs and production costs. All the different publishers have been dancing together enough on different sides of the gymnasium, but I think we're starting to get closer together. —Mark J. Miller
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