UK newspaper outsources subbing to Sydney

One of the UK’s best-known newspapers is now having several of its sections copy edited and laid out in Australia. The Telegraph Media Group has given the business to AAP’s Pagemasters production house, based in Rhodes.

Raw copy is sent from London to Sydney, while Pagemasters sends back finished pages.  

The Daily Telegraph is the UK’s last broadsheet daily national paper, other than the Financial Times.  The group – previously controlled by ex-Fairfax owner Conrad Black – is now in the hands of the Barclay Brothers. The newspapers have moved into a purpose built multimedia hub, but also seen significant cost-cutting.

The move potentially makes good economic and practical sense for the Telegraph’s owners – pages can be worked on overnight London time without having to pay overtime. Journalists in Australia also tend to earn lower salaries – because of the weak dollar, currently about half to two-thirds of the UK.

A further benefit is the shared journalistic cultures. Australia’s newspaper industry – dominated by Fairfax and Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd – share many similarities with London’s Fleet Street. AAP is jointly owned by Fairfax and News Ltd.

However, critics of outsourcing of production warn that sub editors are a last line of defence against mistakes and that local knowledge cannot be replaced.

But if the deal becomes part of a wider trend, it offers new jobs to Sydney-based journalists who have already seen high profile rounds of redundancies at Fairfax and more low level cost cutting at News Ltd.

News Ltd’s Australian reports today that Fairfax’s classified revenues suffered a dramatic slump prior to Christmas. Estimates from Goldman Sachs JBWere say classified pages for the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne’s The Age were down by 38%.

Meanwhile, Fairfax’s SMH says today that News Corp has frozen pay at Dow Jones, citing the weakened global economy.

Update: Edward Roussel of the Telegraph Media Group, has added some comments on this issue on the BuzzMachine blog:

“I can confirm that we are outsourcing the production work for newspaper weekend supplements to Australia – and thereby saving quite a bit of money. The copy goes to Australia once it has been approved by an editor in London. Reducing the cost of manufacturing and distribution is an imperative for any newspaper group that is determined to remain profitable, as we are. This is a great time to be shopping around the world for value-for-money partners. Newspaper-web companies should focus internal resource on what they do best: creating premium editorial content.”


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