Offering offshore options

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In a move that reflects the growing trend of outsourcing operations overseas, printer Cadmus Communications recently announced it is offering full design and production services to b-to-b publishers at one of its two facilities in India.

Three b-to-b publishers currently use the service, though none wishes to be public about it. "They're still unclear about what the current staff and advertiser response will be," said John W. Miller, exec VP-sales and marketing at Cadmus, which was recently acquired by Cenveo Inc. "We expect that to change, especially as other publishers begin to take part."

Jim McCormack, former VP-production for Cook's Illustrated publisher America's Test Kitchen, said most publishers see production as a cost center. "They do not look at the savings a good production department can make in paper and printing purchases or in the prevention of make-goods," he said. "They are strictly overhead costs that hit the bottom of the P&L."

McCormack said this is especially true for single-title publishers that keep production staff on the payroll all month for what amounts to a very intense week of work. "If this can be outsourced at controlled and manageable costs, publishers will move toward it," he said.

Cadmus started providing this type of service for publishers about eight years ago and mostly served academic journals. The first b-to-b publisher to take part came to Cadmus last year and asked if it could help with staffing issues. Cadmus offered the overseas outsourcing option, as the framework was already in place for that type of relationship. It recently decided to promote it to larger b-to-b media companies.

All of the publishers involved still have their titles printed in North American plants. "They basically handle their core competencies of creating editorial and selling advertising," Miller said. "We do the rest."

Keith Hammerbeck, director of manufacturing services at Advanstar Communications and chairman of American Business Media's Production and Manufacturing Committee, said offshore design could be problematic.

"We have found offshore to work well for things like conversion to XML," he said. "Designing a magazine is creative and doesn't work real well [when offshored] if you want a real nice-looking magazine."

Miller said he understands the design concerns but noted, "We're not trying to take over the design. We're just going to work within the style sheets and the design elements that the publisher dictates."

Tom Fogarty, VP-production at Ascend Media, said: "Design in India would be no different than having a freelance designer on your staff. It is a 'virtual' world."

Miller also addressed the issue of communications between two entities a half-a-world apart.

"While we are sleeping, they are working," Miller said. "So things you left at the end of the day are generally waiting for you when you get to work in the morning." Also, Cadmus has employees on duty around the clock should problems arise, he said.

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