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Vendor partner vs in-house content moderation: which is right for your business?

October 4, 2023 | UGC

Imagine you’re a bustling digital start-up in Silicon Valley. Your team is riding the wave of rapid growth and unprecedented user engagement. The atmosphere is electric and you’re hyper-focused on the next stage in your growth plan, but amidst the celebration, a looming challenge surfaces. The influx of user-generated content is skyrocketing, and with it, more instances of inappropriate content and user misconduct are being reported to your team by the people using your platform. Eventually, these reports reach a critical mass and your senior team realizes it’s time to address a core, but often overlooked, component of any platform’s evolution – trust and safety.

Ensuring a secure, positive online environment is not just about protecting brand reputation; it’s about fostering a space where your users – the engine behind your growth – feel safe to engage and interact. UGC has come a long way since the days of just liking posts. Today’s online interactions are abundant and multifaceted, and companies of all sizes and across all industries are increasingly recognizing the need to safeguard their platforms against online threats in their many forms. The challenge is simple, yet intricate – managing the growing volume of content while maintaining the delicate balance between user freedom and safety.

Faced with such complexities, many platforms, whether it’s that Silicon Valley start-up or a legacy fashion brand that’s now offering product customization, find themselves at a crossroads: should they invest in developing an in-house content moderation team or should they seek the expertise of a specialized vendor partner like WebPurify? We spoke to Alexandra Popken, WebPurify’s VP of Trust & Safety, for her insights into the considerations and advantages of each approach, highlighting how WebPurify’s unique combination of tailored moderation models and consultancy services can guide businesses through the nuanced landscape of making a plan for trust and safety.

Advantages of vendor partners over in-house trust and safety teams

Advantages of vendor partners over in-house trust and safety teams

Vendor partners like WebPurify offer significant advantages with customizable solutions, 24/7 coverage, and a commitment to quality and security.

1. Cost and Scalability

Using a partner like WebPurify is significantly more cost-effective compared to the upfront and operational costs of developing an in-house team. With the ability to provide 24/7 around-the-clock coverage, vendor partners can scale up or down quickly depending on business needs.

2. Expertise and Infrastructure

WebPurify, specializing in content moderation for over 17 years, offers unparalleled expertise and a consultative approach to clients. Our robust infrastructure, combining artificial intelligence and operational rigor, allows us to seamlessly integrate new moderation work.

3. Unbiased Perspective and Strategic Focus

An external vendor brings an unbiased perspective to review your policies and processes, helping businesses identify blind spots and optimize strategies. This outside input allows in-house teams to focus on more strategic work, which can enhance your overall business performance. “There’s value in having an unbiased third party involved in your moderation to poke holes in your policies and processes, and bring a fresh perspective,” Alex points out.

4. Diversity of Experience and Perspective

Vendor partners, having worked with a variety of clients across many industries, bring a diverse range of experience and perspectives to the table. This diversity can be invaluable in spotting potential issues and offering creative solutions that an in-house team, which might be steeped in company culture and perspective, might overlook.

Moderation specialists have access to advanced technology

5. Access to Advanced Technologies

Vendor partners often invest significantly in developing and maintaining cutting-edge technologies and tools designed specifically for content moderation. Leveraging these technologies can enable companies to stay ahead of the curve in detecting and managing inappropriate content at scale, without the need for continuous investment in technology development.

6. Mitigation of Operational Challenges

Vendor partners are adept at managing the operational challenges associated with content moderation, such as handling peak times, promoting moderator wellbeing, and ensuring consistent quality. This can free up companies to focus on their core competencies and strategic initiatives, rather than grappling with the operational intricacies of content moderation. Companies don’t need to bog down their internal teams with time-consuming review-based work, which can be handled more effectively by a specialized vendor.

7. Customizable models

A big advantage of vendor partner services like WebPurify is that it’s customizable, Alex says. “If you want to use our turnkey NSFW criteria and simply plug into our API, we can make it that simple and hands-off for you. However, if you have complex criteria and a non-standard use case, we will also work with you to ensure your needs are met – both from a human review and technology standpoint.”

Advantages of in-house teams over vendor partners

While partnering with external vendor partners like WebPurify offers many benefits, there are some scenarios where using our Trust & Safety Consultancy to develop an in-house content moderation team can also have its unique advantages.

1. Control of Culture & Wellbeing

Although a good vendor partner will give you full visibility of their culture and wellbeing provisions, an in-house team allows you full control of the care and culture around the content moderation team.

2. Direct Communication and Rapid Response

Having the moderation team within the organizational structure facilitates immediate and direct communication, potentially leading to quicker decision-making and adaptability in response to emerging content challenges or shifts in company strategy. That said, WebPurify has developed a crisis response playbook that enables our moderators to respond to viral events in real-time.

3. Tailored Approach and Workflow Integration

In-house teams can tailor their approach and seamlessly integrate workflows, adapting quickly to internal changes. This adaptability can be particularly advantageous when incubating policies or workflows that are in developmental phases or have not yet reached scale.

4. Enhanced Confidentiality and Data Security

While vendor partners prioritize data security, some organizations may prefer to keep sensitive content and data entirely in-house, mitigating the risks associated with transferring information externally.

5. Investment in Long-Term Development

Building an in-house team may involve more upfront costs and investment in training and development. However, this investment can foster a dedicated team with a deep-rooted understanding of company-specific challenges, potentially yielding long-term benefits.

When to use a vendor partner over an in-house team

When to use a vendor partner over an in-house team

In the majority of scenarios, utilizing a vendor partner for content moderation is the most beneficial and cost-effective approach. Vendor partners, particularly specialized companies like WebPurify, bring to the table extensive experience, scalability, and a round-the-clock workforce. These qualities are crucial for businesses experiencing growing or fluctuating content volumes and those that require immediate adaptation to emerging content moderation needs.

What’s more, vendor partners can hit the ground running with 24/7 coverage for those times when growth and success seemingly come overnight. And they have years of experience to quickly get your team up to speed.

“Many times, in-house teams don’t know what they don’t know (they’re operating in an echo chamber), so bringing in external expertise adds a helpful perspective and provides actionable insights,” Alex explains. “Additionally, many companies that we work with are new to trust and safety and are navigating UGC challenges for the first time – that’s where we can really introduce a framework and best practices.”

When to choose an in-house team over a vendor partner

Despite the numerous advantages of vendor partners, there are specific scenarios where developing an in-house content moderation team may be more suitable. Alex points out that if the content volumes a company deals with are relatively small, managing moderation internally can be a pragmatic choice. Small volumes typically do not warrant the extensive resources and capabilities that a specialized vendor partner offers, and an in-house team can effectively handle such content moderation tasks.

Additionally, companies that are in the process of developing or refining their content moderation policies or workflows might initially benefit from an in-house approach. When policies or workflows are still being incubated and have not yet reached a level of maturity or scale, having an internal team manage this transitional phase can offer more control and flexibility.

WebPurify stands out in the vendor landscape by offering support to clients in incubating smaller workflows and partnering with them through our consultancy service to develop and refine guidelines and processes. This commitment demonstrates the adaptability and customized approach we can offer to meet the unique needs of different businesses.

WebPurify’s Trust and Safety Consultancy complements our moderation services, offering guidance on policy development, risk assessment, and crisis response, providing a holistic approach to content moderation.

In Conclusion

Balancing cost, expertise, scalability, and quality control, businesses must carefully evaluate their content moderation needs. WebPurify’s blend of moderation services and consultancy provides a comprehensive approach, helping businesses make informed decisions and navigate the challenges of online safety and user-generated content.

“I strongly advocate for companies to engage in a ‘build vs. buy’ analysis,” Alex says. “This data-driven approach can help companies make an informed decision on whether to develop their own moderation solutions or opt for a specialized external service.”

To help with this decision-making process, WebPurify offers complimentary trials, enabling you to test out the service and assess its fit for your specific needs.

“WebPurify has been in the content moderation business for over 17 years, so we’ve truly been at the forefront of this work and industry for nearly two decades,” Alex says. “There’s tremendous value in hiring a specialist who will lend lessons learned, having honed this craft for a long time.

“This is also a differentiator between WebPurify and traditional vendors. Typically, vendor partners cover all manner of outsourceable workflows, whereas we exclusively focus on content moderation – it’s our bread and butter, and we’re great at it.”