March 18, 2004 outsourcing content production to India

Author: Robin 'Roblimo' Miller

It's not just programmers anymore; now it's the people who write for them too. has learned that, CNET Networks' site aimed at application developers, plans to begin offshoring authoring of many of its articles to India shortly.We learned of this move in the form of a "leaked" memo senior editor Rex Baldazo sent to freelancers and fellow staffers today that said, "...with Q2 it appears my monthly article budget will be slashed dramatically. We're talking somewhere in the 40% range. Unfortunately article fees are the biggest discretionary items in our budgets so whenever they need to find a place to cut these are the biggest targets."

The last paragraph said, "And it gets worse. I hate to have nothing but bad news in this email, however they (they == TPTB) [The Powers That Be - Ed.] want me to try outsourcing some of our content. So we are currently negotiating a trial period with an outsource editorial firm in India (yes, India). They will provide a certain number of Builder articles over the next couple months. That will further reduce the number of freelance articles we purchase in Q2. The India contract is just a 2-month trial so I don't know at this time whether it will affect the number of articles we purchase in Q3. I'll try to keep everyone in the loop as we move forward on this effort."

It's not just about money, Baldazo said by phone from his Kentucky office. "One of the benefits is dealing with a single source instead of having to deal with a number of freelancers." And, he said, it's a two-month trial deal that may not become permanent, but is expected to absorb about half of's total freelance budget while it lasts.

On the phone, Baldazo sounded upbeat about the change. Like all editors who use freelance writers heavily, he's had plenty of bad experiences with writers who didn't meet deadlines or turned in copy that wasn't as good as expected. This is why, from his seat, this deal has advantages beyond its financial aspects. "We're not just saving money," he said. "We're getting a better interface with producers of the content."

Even the time zone difference between the U.S. and India becomes a positive in Baldazo's eyes. "I give them feedback in the afternoon, they have all day to look at it, and I get something back the next morning," he said.

On the savings front, he said he expects "a little bit more" work per dollar. "Not dramatic. Not like 50%, but an increase."

He didn't want to talk about the exact number of dollars (or rupees) involved. His answer to that question was, "I don't think I should say. We're still in negotiation."

Will this experiment work? Baldazo said he's "keeping an open mind about it." Asked if he had concerns about giving up editorial control, he said, "We'll still be providing direction ... what content we want written. It will still be under our control."

The technical writing business has always had a bit of an international flavor to it. NewsForge, for instance, works with freelancers in many parts of the world. German writer Michael 'STIBS' Stibane is covering CeBit for us, and some of the reports we've run about Linux and open source use come from contributors in Korea, Australia, Mexico, Canada, The Philippines, France, and many other countries, including ... India. But is the first major content-reliant Web site we've heard of that is offshoring writing work instead of outsourcing some of it.

Baldazo noted, "Some of our freelancers have always been overseas," so this is not a case of U.S. jobs at suddenly moving to another country.

Indeed, Baldazo said, one of the freelancers whose work is being cut lives in India, which is certainly a perfect piece of irony to use as the ending to this story, is it not?

Click Here!