Pros and cons of outsourcing moderation

Outsourcing content moderation can be a scary thought, especially if your platform or community deals with sensitive topics. 

However, outsourcing can be just as custom and high-quality as an in-house service—you just need to think about it the right way and make sure you’re informed about both sides of the coin.

I’ve managed Trust & Safety teams that were 100% in-house and later brought in outsourced help. I’ve also inherited a 100% outsourced team and brought in in-house expertise. I believe that a thoughtful blend of both is the best strategy for even the smallest startups. 

Let’s talk about the pros and cons of outsourcing content moderation, and hopefully help you make a decision on whether it’s the right choice for you.

Pros of outsourcing content moderation

Easier to create 24/7 coverage 

Outsourcing content moderation simplifies the process of achieving 24/7 moderation coverage by leveraging external teams that operate globally, across different time zones. 

Having 24/7 coverage means continuous monitoring and quick responses to inappropriate or harmful content, helping you maintain a safe and engaging environment for your users at all times.

This not only increases user safety and satisfaction, but also allows internal teams to focus on core business activities, driving overall efficiency.

More language availability

Outsourcing content moderation can significantly increase language availability by utilizing a global network of people fluent in multiple languages. 

More language capability ensures that content is accurately moderated in the users’ native languages, improving your platform's accessibility. Expanded language support can also build a more welcoming and safe environment for a global user base.

Global cultural knowledge and insights 

Outsourcing content moderation can enhance global cultural knowledge and insights by tapping into diverse teams with local expertise from all around the world. 

These teams bring a deep understanding of different regional norms, languages, and various cultural differences, which is important for accurately understanding and moderating content in context. 

Also, outsourced teams can provide valuable feedback on user behavior trends across different regions, offering better data to inform their strategies. 

Can be cheaper than in-house 

Outsourcing content moderation can be more cost-effective than maintaining an in-house team due to several factors. 

First, outsourcing companies usually already have the infrastructure, technology, and expertise in place, eliminating the need for you to invest in expensive training programs, software, and ongoing expenses associated with hiring and managing an in-house team. 

Outsourcing also allows for flexible scaling, meaning businesses only pay for the moderation services they really need, instead of the fixed costs of full-time employees. 

Access to additional insights and support

Outsourcing content moderation offers access to additional insights and support with the specialized knowledge and advanced technologies of dedicated BPO providers. 

These teams often use sophisticated analytics tools to gather and analyze data from moderated content, providing valuable insights into user behavior, emerging trends, potential risks, etc.

Frees up your management team

Outsourcing content moderation can significantly free up your management team from the burdens of recruiting, workforce management (WFM), and scheduling. 

By handing responsibilities to an experienced third-party provider, you can eliminate the need for extensive hiring processes, onboarding, and training, which can be time-consuming and expensive. 

Outsourced partners usually already have established teams and systems in place, ensuring efficient and reliable moderation without the overhead. This means that internal management can focus on core business functions and strategic initiatives.

Immediate access to wellness programs for moderators

Outsourcing content moderation means immediate access to wellness programs specifically designed for moderators. 

Third-party providers often have comprehensive wellness initiatives in place, recognizing the demanding and very often extremely distressing nature of content moderation work. 

These programs can include mental health support, counseling services, stress management workshops, and regular breaks to ensure moderators' well-being.

Can ramp work up/down easily with seasonal spikes 

Outsourcing content moderation allows companies to easily ramp work up or down to accommodate seasonal spikes and other fluctuations in volume. 

Third-party providers have the scalability to quickly adjust their team size, ensuring that there are sufficient moderators during peak periods, such as holidays or major events (launches, sales, etc.), without the need for long-term commitments.

Career progression for moderators 

One of the challenges of in-house moderation teams is that there is often little career progression past team lead or manager level. 

Moderators can feel stuck doing the same work, and this can be difficult to manage, especially if other teams/ departments at your company are seeing higher wages and faster career progression. 

Leaders can spend much of their time dealing with dissatisfaction or high turnover, which pulls them away from their main focus. 

Outsourcing companies have the benefit of many different partnerships, so they can ensure that the right folks are in the right jobs.

Due to this larger scale, there are more resources and options available for moderation teams, which increases job satisfaction, performance, and morale—resulting in better quality work overall. 

Now, let's look into some potential downsides.

Potential cons of outsourcing content moderation

Less control and oversight

Outsourcing content moderation can result in less control and oversight over the hiring process of moderators. 

There may be limited visibility into the qualifications, training, and background of the people responsible for moderating content. This lack of oversight can potentially lead to differences in moderator expertise, cultural understanding, and sticking to guidelines. 

Always make sure you pick an outsourcing company that’s transparent about their hiring process and employee backgrounds so you can get rid of any concerns from the get go.

Cheapest moderation won’t be high quality 

Opting for the cheapest content moderation outsourcing option often comes with the trade-off of sacrificing quality. BPOs offering the lowest rates may cut corners on things like wellness programs, training, technology, and quality assurance. 

As a result, the moderation team may not have the support, expertise, or resources they need to effectively handle different content types, deal with complex challenges, and uphold the standards of your company. 

Ultimately, while the cheapest outsourcing option may seem appealing from a dollar standpoint, it's important to understand that prioritizing cost savings over quality can undermine the efficacy of your content moderation efforts.

More of an effort to educate the outsourced team

Outsourcing content moderation means more effort going into educating the outsourced team about company values, updates, standards, etc.. 

Unlike an in-house team, which is inherently more involved in the company culture, an outsourced team may lack familiarity with your company's principles, brand identity, and policies. 

By investing in thorough training, education, and continuous engagement from the get go, the outsourcing arrangement can be leveraged effectively to uphold the consistency of content moderation efforts.

Difficulties accessing sensitive internal content 

An outsourced content moderation team may face limitations in giving access to sensitive internal content—such as raw user data—that could be important for in-house investigators. 

While in-house moderators typically have direct access to internal systems, outsourced teams often work within a more restricted framework due to privacy, security, and contractual limits. 

Companies must carefully consider the trade-offs between outsourcing content moderation and maintaining internal investigative capabilities to ensure a solid approach to risk management.

Constant involvement still required

Outsourced content moderation teams cannot operate on a "set it and forget it" basis—they require ongoing guidance and coordination from in-house experts to set policies, strategies, and facilitate cross-functional communication. 

In-house experts will always play a crucial role in making sure collaboration stays seamless between different departments.

When to consider outsourcing your content moderation

Based largely on the pros of outsourcing we discussed above, here are a few scenarios that might mean it could be the right option for you:

  • You feel like you're spending too much time on hiring and performance management and want to lessen the load on yourself and your team.
  • You have a lot of repeatable work that can be learned and done following a set of policies or a playbook.
  • You want 24/7 coverage to make sure your community stays safe at all times (and you don’t have the resources).
  • You need subject matter specialization (e.g. child safety) that you're not equipped to manage in-house.
  • Moderator wellness and career progression is a concern for you, and you want to make sure that everyone has the best options available.

Outsourcing can help with all of these issues, so if you feel like you’d benefit from it, try it out with a flexible solution first and see how it goes!

In conclusion…

Outsourcing content moderation can help platforms maintain a safe and engaging online environment, especially for platforms dealing with sensitive topics. 

While it might sound scary, it’s important to approach outsourcing with a strategic mindset. Drawing from experiences managing both in-house and outsourced teams, a balanced blend of both is often the most effective strategy, even for small companies. 

By embracing outsourcing while maintaining active oversight and collaboration from in-house experts, companies can harness the best of both worlds to secure a safe and inclusive online community aligned with their values and objectives.

Alice Hunsberger