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From newsroom to newsletter: How local journalists are DIYing important coverage via email
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July 25, 2019, 3:10 p.m.

What does The New York Times look for in coming up with a new product? These five things

Including global potential, habit formation, and brand leverage.

Job alert: The New York Times is looking to hire two entrepreneurs-in-residence to work on new product development for the company. (Nick, I noticed!)

The Times’ brand and scale open up new product development in a way few other news publishers can match. (A paid Fresno Bee Cooking product would be a hard sell, methinks, and no one is lining up to buy an El Paso Times Crosswords bundle.) And job listings are often an interesting window into the strategic thinking of an organization.

In this case, the Times’ New Products and Ventures group has “identified several domains that we intend to explore next” (after crosswords, cooking, its new parenting product, and I guess Watching). These new hires will “identify, define and build the essential products to meet the market opportunity” and “be given broad leeway and autonomy to define the product and business model, to build the team, and devise and manage the overall execution plan.”

So how does a company like the Times decide on what those next areas of opportunity might be — and how best to build a product that can take advantage of it? The listing describes five criteria:

  • “We anticipate but don’t require that the ultimate product will blend utility with editorial value and stand alone as a business”
  • “Global potential”
  • “A model that maximizes frequency through utility and habit building”
  • “A model that has organic growth potential”
  • “A product that leverages the brand, authority, personality and assets of the Times”

You can see how the Times’ existing products fit into that rubric. If you’re trying to build something that people will pay for, building a usage habit is critical; Crosswords fans are solving every morning and Cooking subscribers are making dinner every night. Interest in neither product requires you to be the sort of person who consumes or pays for the core Times news product, so they can grow on their own — but you can also definitely see the overlap in demographics and psychographics, as well as the value the Times’ brand equity brings to the offer.

(Personally, I find it harder to align those criteria with the Times’ Parenting product, which has felt to me thus far more like a Times editorial vertical than a distinct product with a clear value proposition that would lead to payment. But to be fair, it’s barely two months old at this point.)

Given those as-yet-unrevealed domains of Timesian interest, what specific problems will these entrepreneurs-in-residence be asked to tackle? The listing’s answer illustrates the Times’ subscription-first thinking, as well as other basic but useful questions for any product team to ask:

  • Will consumers pay for a subscription product in the domain?
  • If not, what other business models are available?
  • How can we create [a] differentiated product in a crowded market?
  • What acquisition targets might we evaluate to accelerate our goals?
  • How might we leverage our existing assets, content, franchises?

If you think you might be the right person for these two jobs, by all means, apply! But if not, you can still take lessons from the Times’ product approach and apply them to your company — or just your own work as a journalist.

POSTED     July 25, 2019, 3:10 p.m.
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