T-S Outsourcing?




Rumor is that the Times-Standard is letting some folks go and outsourcing ad production jobs.

One source at the 158-year-old newspaper said two people are leaving but declined to say who or what they do at the paper. Others contacted at the paper said to talk to publisher Dave Kuta, group advertising director Shonnie Bradbury and Display Advertising Director Zach Harrington -- none of whom have returned our calls.

However, Express KCS Inc., "the largest independent provider of newspaper advertisement production outsourcing" according to its website, announced on June 19 that it has expanded its contract with MediaNews Group and added more California papers to the 40-some for whom it already does some ad production work:

"The new agreement which runs until 2016, consists of five additional California based newspapers: The Monterey County Herald, The Chico Enterprise Record, The Eureka Times Standard, The Paradise Post, and the Red Bluff Daily News."

This is the sort of news, though just one more paragraph in a growing-old story, that gives newspaper people the willies -- well, except for those flush folks at KCS. Their outfit, which also does work for other U.S. Newspaper chains -- McClatchy, Lee Enterprises -- and a slew of papers in the UK, is growing. Their other news release headlines tell it:

"18th June, 2012  Express KCS wins contract to supply advertisement production to Penna plc."

"9th May, 2012 Express KCS unveils new brand identity"

"24th November, 2011 Press Association and Express KCS collaborate to bring outsourced advertisement production to UK newspapers"

"16th September, 2011 Express KCS expands again: Express KCS expands into second India production facility."

That last one notes that Express KCS's main production facility in Gurgaon, India, is busting at the seams with 400 employees, so it's built another ad and design studio in Pune, Maharashtra, and is building yet another. Said the company's CEO, Robert Berkeley:

"The market's appetite for outsourcing graphic arts production is bigger than ever."

So, good for them. But sucks for the local folks. Outsourcing isn't new, and the poor T-S is obviously doing what it can to stay alive. But at what point will all that belt-tugging shut off circulation? Already the company shut down one local paper - the Humboldt Beacon, born in 1901 and died in December 2011 -- and this January ceased putting out a Monday print edition of the Times-Standard. Its staff has noticeably shrunk -- just a few years ago, there were seven news writers, for instance. Recently we've only seen three bylines in the news section.

And MediaNews itself is now owned by a bank: It went Chapter 11 in January 2010 and by March its lenders -- chief among them Bank of America -- were in charge.

In a T-S announcement of those changes, back in November 2011, Kuta said the decisions to cut the Beacon and curtail the Monday edition of the T-S were locally made, not directed by MediaNews -- although, he was told to "cut expenses."

In that report, he was bleak about the paper's profit margin: "We're not where we should be, otherwise we wouldn't be making these changes."

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