If you're the "big fish" in the pond, are you willing to compromise or take on the risks of partnership when the benefits to you might be negligible?
INBOX: How can publishers determine whether joining a consortium is the right move for them?
SMITH: The first consideration is whether the publisher is buying full-time expertise when less-than-full-time is enough. Bi-monthlies might find that consolidating staff is appealing from the standpoint of cutting costs, especially if the consortium is offering more professional or experienced production, circulation, ad or IT management than the individual title might be getting otherwise.
Publishers must also determine if they can save enough money by joining a buying consortium to either begin purchasing paper directly for the first time or to get significantly better pricing at a higher volume than the title gets on its own. Personnel and paper are the two biggest buys, and that's where any publisher should start evaluating their options.
Finally, there's the question of transparency. How does the publisher know the consortium is offering it the best deal unless it sees their prepress, printing, mailing and paper pricing? Paying for a single dollar amount at the bottom of a summary invoice doesn't give the publisher much information for evaluating the deal. Be able to go out on bid periodically to ensure that the consortium isn't overcharging, just as you would for other vendors. If you're buying printing through a consortium, what are your rights to bid out work or opt out of certain services? Who takes the paper allocation, the consortium or the individual partner?
INBOX: What metrics should publishers track to determine if they're getting the full benefits of being a consortium member?
SMITH: Very often it's the intangible values that aren't measured or valued when initially reviewing a plan that prove its eventual failure. Use a matrix that weights the intangibles you value before the change and measures them, along with cost savings, after the fact. Track pricing, errors and overall satisfaction by scoring each line item in your matrix against the weight you originally assigned. That'll give you a better understanding of the consortium's value than a straight ROI study.