2
0
1
9

From bridge roles to product thinkers

“A person doesn’t need to have a product title to be a product thinker. Newsrooms already have these strategists in their midsts — engagement editors, growth editors, digital editors — leading change.”

For the past few years, we’ve seen the rise of bridge roles in newsrooms across the country — engagement reporter, designer/developer, digital editor, growth editor, the list goes on. Many of these roles perform the same essential task: They connect the dots between disciplines to enable more strategic work. They are, essentially, product thinkers.

Product thinking is the ability to think across disciplines — most commonly technology, user experience, and business — to define and execute a strategic plan. But it’s not limited to product teams. You could also call this “taking a holistic approach” or “strategic thinking.” In 2019, I believe we’ll see more journalists take on this kind of interdisciplinary approach as we increasingly value the ability to connect the dots between editorial strategy, audience development, revenue, and technology.

We’re already seeing media companies invest in product teams to carve new paths for sustainable revenue and audience development — a mark of how the industry has embraced product thinking. And we’re seeing the work initially created by people in bridge roles cascade across newsrooms.

Vox Media and The Washington Post have built product teams to create scalable, revenue-driving publishing platforms. These platforms modernize editorial workflows by democratizing some of the work of bridge roles — engagement, analytics, visual storytelling.

At the Miami Herald, they’ve changed the position of online producer to growth editor, which integrates product thinking into the editorial process. “We wanted reporters and editors to take ownership of each story, from conceiving it with audience and mission in mind, to how to best present it on digital platforms, to how to make sure it would reach its target audience,” Mindy Marquez and Rick Hirsch told Better News.

The existence of bridge roles shows small and local newsrooms don’t need a product team or swaths of developers, designers, and user researchers to integrate cross-functional thinking into their work. A person doesn’t need to have a product title to be a product thinker. Newsrooms already have these strategists in their midsts — engagement editors, growth editors, digital editors — leading change.

In last year’s predictions, Federica Cherubini said we need to think about how bridge roles, and the people in them, can evolve. My hope is that in 2019, more of these cross-functional strategists will be promoted to positions of leadership. We need leaders across all levels who make decisions that balance the organization’s mission with the needs of their audience and technological capacity, and who can train others to do the same.

These will be managing editors who facilitate communication and interpret perspectives across teams; product managers who prioritize and establish clear workflows for building new products; engagement editors who evangelize for the best audience experience and news delivery possible; and growth editors who apply data to elevate and sharpen editorial strategy. They will be journalists who fight to protect editorial integrity, encourage us to reach new audiences, and ensure that we’re working toward sustainable revenue models.

As the silos in newsrooms continue to break down, it allows us to make more strategic decisions — decisions that are necessary for our industry’s survival. Journalists have rightly been focused on developing a culture of empathy for our audiences so that we can better reach and serve our readers, listeners, and watchers. We need to turn this empathy inward and learn how we can work together, merge our expertise, and create a bridge culture that pushes our industry forward.

Becca Aaronson is the director of product at Chalkbeat.

Nisha Chittal   The homepage makes a comeback

Colleen Shalby   Representation becomes more than a talking point

Ben Werdmuller   The platform tide is turning

Jesse Brown   Canada’s subsidy for news backfires

Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling

Joe Amditis   Give the audience a seat at the table

Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news

Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

Monique Judge   Committing to the truth, calling out lies

Simon Galperin   After capitalism’s fire, journalism’s secondary succession

Nikki Usher   Three ways national media will further undermine trust

Reyhan Harmanci   Selling more stories to Hollywood

John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

Joanne McNeil   Building a digital hospice

Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

J. Siguru Wahutu   Think 2018 was bad? Wait until you see 2019

Renée Kaplan   Our future could lie within our own organizations

Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

Marie Shanahan   Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms

Amy King   We should listen to the kids (especially on Instagram)

Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

Jeremy Gilbert   AI finally becomes helpful

Dan Shanoff   Bet on sports gambling

Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good

Alexandra Borchardt   Newsrooms need to build trust with their journalists, not just the audience

Annie Rudd   A more intimate aesthetic of politics — on Insta

Don Day   Timewalls and other reader revenue experiments

Ariel Zirulnick   Participation gets professional

Alyssa Zeisler   We expand what (and how and who) we serve

Heather Chaplin   Agree we’re partisan — for the democratic system

Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism

Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

Adam B. Ellick   Video forensic reporting goes mainstream — and local

Hossein Derakhshan   The news is dying, but journalism will not — and should not

Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

Jack Riley   Facebook refugees, from ad revenue to news habits

Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

Libby Bawcombe   Haikus of the news

Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

Steve Myers   From trying to cover it all to covering what matters

Kristen Muller   Local news fails — in a good way

Jonathan Stray   More algorithmic accountability reporting, and a lot of it will be meh

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   A long, slow slog, with no one coming to the rescue

Whitney Phillips   Our information systems aren’t broken — they’re working as intended

Sarah Marshall   A return to destination journalism

Seth C. Lewis   The gap between journalism and research is too wide

Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

Mike Caulfield   Ditch the media literacy cynicism and get to work

Tushar Banerjee   Interactive ads will be the new face of display advertising

Julia Rubin   Meeting people where they are

Elva Ramirez   News — but make it cinematic

Michael Rain   The year of the culturally relevant curator

Taylor Lorenz   Personal branding is more powerful than ever

Joel Konopo   Influencers become the new liberated power in Africa

Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface

Greg Emerson   Power to the user

Rebecca Lee Sanchez   We are all actors in the running rampant of political theater

Peter Cunliffe-Jones   The focus of misinformation debates shifts south

John Saroff   The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

Lauren Katz   Community becomes a core newsroom value

Catalina Albeanu   Being responsible for what we don’t know

Thomas Hanitzsch   The rise of tribal journalism

Elite Truong   What do we owe the next generation?

Errin Haines   Say it with me: Racism

Renan Borelli   Developing loyalty means developing your talent

Christa Scharfenberg and Vickie Baranetsky   The year of the lawsuit

Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

Cristi Hegranes   A year to invest in the security of local journalists

Kawandeep Virdee   Media wants to take care of you

Raney Aronson-Rath   We learn “digital” doesn’t have to mean “short”

Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections

Cindy Royal   For journalism curriculum to change, its faculty needs disruption

P. Kim Bui   The misfits become the bosses

Emma Carew Grovum   The year of the loyal reader

Meredith Artley   Huge demand for…anything but politics

Stephanie Edgerly   It’s time to understand the un-audience

Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

Carrie Brown-Smith   Advocating a healthy civic life is no journalistic crime

Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

M. Scott Havens   Time to swing for the fences

Carolina Guerrero   Spanish-language audio blows up

Dave Burdick   Seeing our blind spots

Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

Carl Bialik   Fatigued news consumers will pay more for less news

Rishad Patel   A design system for responsible publishing

Shannon McGregor   More bogus embedded tweets in our stories

LaToya Drake   Listen up: New stories, new storytellers

Talia Stroud   Engaging people across lines of difference

Charo Henríquez   Pivot to journalism

Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

Shalabh Upadhyay   A culture clash on India’s growing Internet

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   The most beautiful sentence in 2019 is “No.”

Matt Waite   “I went to Node.js because I wished to live deliberately”

Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions

Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

Mariana Moura Santos   From pageviews to impact

Mandy Velez   Putting the social back in social media

Efrat Nechushtai   Journalism wants to be your friend, not your teacher

Nico Gendron   Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

Rodney Gibbs   A bright — and young — year for audio

Jenée Desmond-Harris   It finally sinks in that some people aren’t white

Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau   A more sincere definition of “community”

Tyler Fisher   This is journalism’s do-or-die moment

Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

Robin Kwong   Tech shouldn’t be the only field pollinating “news nerds”

Kainaz Amaria   We consider who’s behind the camera

Jennifer Dargan   You don’t build diversity through one-off training sessions

Joshua P. Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

Frank Chimero   Leave the phone at home and put news on your wrist

Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

Frank Mungeam   Tonight at 11: News, sports, and climate change

Amy Schmitz Weiss   Local news isn’t where you thought it was

Gideon Lichfield   Goodbye attention economy, we’ll miss you

Glyn Mottershead and Martin Chorley   When a tech company pulls the plug on your story

Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

Heba Aly   The rise of international nonprofit news

Alberto Cairo   A year of uncertainty and confidence

Tshepo Tshabalala   Ahead of African elections, unlock partnerships with fact-checkers

Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

Candis Callison   Learn from Indigenous journalists on covering climate change

Kelsey Proud   Journalism becomes the escape

Peter Bale   Venture capital runs out of patience

Knight Foundation   A year of local collaboration

Chase Davis   We can acknowledge what we don’t know

Claire Wardle   Forget deepfakes: Misinformation is showing up in our most personal online spaces

Moreno Cruz Osório   Damaged credibility and a new threat in Brazil

Michael Grant   More newsrooms experiment their way to success

Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

Axie Navas   The traffic hunt, CMS battle, and magazine identity crises loom

Eric Nuzum   The year of the DIY podcast network

Kjerstin Thorson   Time to get mad about information inequality (again)

Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

Rebecca Searles   From silos to Swiss Army knife teams

Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

Almar Latour   Reported facts, weaponized in service of action

Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

Umbreen Bhatti   The story doesn’t end for the people we quote

Laura E. Davis   More access, but not that kind

Robert Hernandez   Racists and sexists get replaced

Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

Darryl Holliday   Let’s talk about power (yours)

John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

Borja Bergareche Sainz de los Terreros   Entering a more balanced era

Jeff Chin   We detox from Chartbeat

Matthew Pressman   The battle over objectivity intensifies

Elizabeth Dunbar   Local reporters reflect on what’s not important

Cory Bergman   Journalism as a technology service

Jesse Holcomb   We’ll get better at making the case for local journalism

Johannes Klingebiel   We all grow hooves

Steve Henn   Smart speakers get smarter

Manoush Zomorodi   Tech will do for information overload what it did for mindfulness

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Readers are only getting started

Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

Winny de Jong   Data journalism goes undercover

Mat Yurow   Content competition from the tech companies

Angilee Shah   The year news orgs say “yes” to real leaders

Rubina Madan Fillion   Fighting the reality of deepfakes

Millie Tran   There is no magic — you’ve got this

A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

Heather Bryant   We are responsible for how we use our power

Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

Mike Rispoli and Craig Aaron   Government funds local news — and that’s a good thing

Sarah Stonbely   Mapping the local news ecosystem — with scale but detail

Elisabeth Goodridge   Yes, they signed up — but our job’s not over

Francesco Zaffarano   Towards a rethinking of journalism on social media

Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

Zuzanna Ziomecka   News leadership gets an overdue upgrade

Hearken   Pivot to people

Pia Frey   You can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis

Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

An Xiao Mina   The death of consensus, not the death of truth

Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

Kevin D. Grant   A year to embrace journalism as public service

Juleyka Lantigua   Podcasting battles East Coast bias

Mike Isaac   The old exit doors for digital media companies are closing

Linda Solomon Wood   The year of the climate reporter

Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

Soo Oh   Just showing our work isn’t enough

Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

Sarah Alvarez   Simplify and redistribute

Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

Zainab Khan   Publishers whose products can stand up to social media giants will win

Matt Karolian   Publishers come to terms with being Facebook’s enablers

Jared Newman   AI-generated fakes launch a software arms race

Celeste LeCompte   Local news needs local conversation to survive

Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

Brian Moritz   The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit

Simon Rogers   Data journalism becomes a global field

Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0