The Washington Post Launches WIP for Freelancers

procurement

The Washington Post announced Monday the launch of what it is calling The Washington Post Talent Network, a private, homegrown work intermediation platform (WIP) that will be used to manage the Post’s far-flung network of freelance contributors. In some ways, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before something like this would emerge in the news and media industry – but the big surprise here might be how.

News and media company business models have long been based on using large numbers of freelance workers, including writers and visual and audio technicians. But they have done so through manual processes and fragmented systems, not using a comprehensive digital platform such as freelance management systems (FMS) offered by companies like Work Market Inc., Beeline and Upwork Enterprise. While some of these businesses have targeted news and media companies like Reuters and Bloomberg, it's not been clear if any has adopted an FMS as their sole solution.

Changing the Procurement of Work

Over the past 10 years, nearly 300 WIPs have emerged separately from enterprises (as online freelancer marketplaces, crowdsourcing sites and other kinds of two-sided labor platforms, according to Spend Matters research). Technology companies have only recently begun to develop and position WIPs for use by individual enterprises to engage and manage their affiliated independent workforce, and adoption of these solutions has been slow.

The Washington Post appears to be one of the first enterprises to build its own WIP infrastructure. And, as noted in the Post’s launch article, the Post Talent Network is not just about the processes of engaging and paying freelancers online but also about extending the reach of the Post to a broader range of talent by facilitating more and richer contributions and quality of content. Some key features mentioned are:

  • Freelancer profiles detailing professional experience and expertise, including work samples. (Information from LinkedIn cab be imported to save time and effort.)
  • Assignment posting, which allows freelancers to consider stories the Post is interested in pursuing.
  • Location tracking, which ensures editors know freelancers’ primary work locations, allowing quick deployment for breaking news.
  • Story pitching, which allows freelancers to tailor ideas to every department and for individual editorial initiatives, including blogs.

It is noteworthy that WIPs are emerging not just as transactional, source-to-pay systems but as platforms that support the what, how and quality of work getting done. While the procurement perspective on this development has not been addressed in the announcement itself,  it is also something that is likely to be quite important for the Post. Unifying supply and spend management on one platform, gaining new extraordinary visibility into engagements, performance and spend, are likely of significant interest in a business sector as disrupted as news publishing. What’s more, visibility brings an increased spotlight on compliance issues, as Uber Technologies Inc. has learned over the past year. In the coming weeks, Spend Matters will endeavor to learn more about and cover the procurement-centric side of this story.

Final Thoughts

The world of WIPs is an unpredictable one – one that is quite different from the pattern of gradual linear diffusion of supply chain technologies over the past 30 years. Because of the nature of digital platform structures, innovative forms emerge suddenly, and it can be difficult to identify where tipping points may arise as new independent workforce ecosystems take shape. This Washington Post development is another data point. Spend Matters repeats its advisory that WIPs and new technology-enabled ways of directly sourcing and engaging non-employee workforce are not something off on a distant horizon. They are something that is happening now in what may be a variety of unpredictable ways.

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