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Oct. 10, 2019, 11:14 a.m.
LINK: www.axios.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Christine Schmidt   |   October 10, 2019

The product team — people who float in between editorial, business, technology, etc. around the newsroom and keep the organization on track in developing useful products — is becoming an increasingly larger part of newsrooms, locally and nationally. As I wrote in April:

In a nutshell, journalism is now firmly a product that needs humans to carry it out. The deep integration of a distinct product role — something that shares characteristics of both editorial and business-side — is a years-old story at many of national news organizations, like The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Vox Media. And more have rightfully built out teams of product thinkers fiddling with the sites, goals, and strategies to get there — because, well, they can afford to.

The New York Times’ product team is getting a new infusion with the new leadership of Alex Hardiman, most recently chief business and product officer at The Atlantic as it built out its paywall, head of news products at Facebook for two years before that, all built off 10 years at the Times culminating in a VP of news products role.

Axios’ Sara Fischer had the news Thursday morning: “Hardiman will oversee a team of roughly 60 product managers and hundreds of additional designers, engineers, data scientists, and more. ‘The Times’ approach will be much more like the product thinking at a big consumer tech company like Facebook as opposed to the way a traditional newsroom would approach product,’ says Hardiman.”

She’ll be reporting to chief operating officer Meredith Kopit Levien, who sees habit-building as a big priority. “The thing we have to do that is make this product as compelling and addictive as our journalism to get people to keep coming back and forming habits with us,” Levien told Fischer. Engagement will also have a larger focus, with former Zynga product head (blame him for Farmville) Jon Tien leading that product push.

From Levien’s announcement to staff:

It’s been nearly a year since we launched our new organizational structure designed to accelerate our digital product development. And it’s working! There are signs everywhere that we’re on the right path, from the volume of our testing to the velocity of our shipping to the strength of our subscription growth. Together, we’re proving that our digital product itself can be a powerful engine of growth.

Product work — and therefore product leadership — matters enormously to our future.

If this is of interest, consider applying for The New York Times’ entrepreneur-in-residence to work on new product development for the company. (The application portal is still open!) Or ponder the Times’ product thinking questions for your own work:

  • 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?
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