Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Cutting (to) the Core: Outsourced Printing Continues to Make Sense-And 'Cents'-For More and More Newspaper Publishers

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Cutting (to) the Core: Outsourced Printing Continues to Make Sense-And 'Cents'-For More and More Newspaper Publishers

Article excerpt

THE OLD EUROPEAN TRADITION OF PUBLISHERS REPRODUCING THEIR OWN WORKS never totally migrated to the New World, with the exception of newspapers, of course. In America, there's been mostly a church-and-state-like separation of publishers and printing presses. Even Reuben H. Donnelley, a son of the founder of North America's now largest printing firm, had to break away and eventually form his own directory publishing business in the 1880s. The spin-off may have been a formality because, either way, his father and brother were printing the phone books he published independently.

Fast-forward to 21st-century print outsourcing trends: The vast majority of U.S. newspapers always have done their own printing. But modem-day publishers increasingly recognize outsourcing's value as a management tool that makes profit sense, according to mega printer Transcontinental, Inc. By "jobbing out" print, newspapers can focus on their core business and still use technology to their advantage--without having the capital-intensive burden of investing in the latest multimillion-dollar printing presses, not to mention associated labor costs.

Among smaller newspaper publishers, outsourcing the print function is nothing new. A number of independent community newspapers have long contracted out their print needs to suppliers such as Montreal-based Transcontinental, which now produces more than 150 daily and weekly newspapers across North America. As reported in the April issue of Editor & Publisher, family owned Times Publishing Co. is moving its printing operations to a different facility. With headquarters in Erie, Pa., the company publishes the Erie Times-News. "Our major concern is the age of our printing and packaging equipment and the millions of dollars it would take to maintain or replace this equipment," said president and publisher Rosanne Cheeseman.

"Although we have printed our own newspaper for nearly 90 years, with today's technologies we have decided to purchase printing and packaging services elsewhere. The world of communication is changing," Cheeseman said, "and more than 50 newspapers across the country have closed printing plants just since the beginning of 2009." Times Publishing is in discussions with several potential third parties to print and package its newspaper, but the transition will likely occur during the third quarter of 2011, she said.

The Price of Progress

Print shop layoffs are inevitable, of course. Cheeseman said Times Publishing intends to offer separation packages to its 40 or so affected employees. Eastern Connecticut's largest newspaper, The Day, had been printed independently since 1881--until this past March, when Day Publishing Co. cut 38 workers due, in part, to moving the printing of its flagship newspaper to the Providence (R.I.) Journal. Most of the layoffs occurred in the printing division, which had 151 employees. (The firm's weekly newspapers still are printed in its New London plant.)

While cost reductions may be top of mind, Transcontinental points out that an outsourcing decision often stems from the need to increase performance levels to the expectations of a rapidly changing marketplace. Outsourcing puts a function in the hands of experts committed to a particular area. …

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