Product trends: Audio is in, the metaverse is out ... at least for now

By Paula Felps


Nashville, Tennessee, United States


To kick off the INMA Product and Data for Media Summit, Jodie Hopperton, INMA’s Product Initiative lead, looked at some of the biggest trends in product and divided them into three categories: 

  • What’s hot.
  • What’s not.
  • And what’s taking time.

“Some things have taken time to figure out, and I think it’s important to acknowledge that,” she said of the third category. “Sometimes we can feel frustrated. But I hope we’ll all take a little bit of comfort that we’re all trying to figure this out together.”

On the first of five days of the virtual summit, 120 attendees represented 29 countries. Thursday’s module also featured a discussion about top data trends by INMA Smart Data Initiative Lead Ariane Bernard; Kimmy Bettinger, lead for responsible data ecosystems at the World Economic Forum; Arjun Moorthy, co-founder of The Factual; and Niksa Gopcevic, digital strategist at Syria Media Group. Registration continues throughout the summit.

Discovering what’s hot

However, there are certain things that news media companies have already figured out and are leveraging successfully as part of the product journey. The biggest one for Hopperton is audio and voice. With air bud products dominating and people having so many additional audio options (like smart speakers) for accessing audio content, publishers have a growing number of opportunities to reach customers through audio.

“It goes well beyond podcasts, but it’s part of it,” she said, noting daily news makes up 7% of all podcasts but accounts for 30% of top episodes.

“This is really important among users. They love listening to podcasts.”

The mission for publishers is to figure out how to do more with audio and leverage that interest. 

She also discussed understanding where growth is coming from (hint: Gen Z), AI and machine learning, as well as interactive storytelling tools.

Looking at what’s not 

When it comes to the opposite of what’s hot, the thing at the top of Hopperton’s list is “one line of code.”

“It’s never one line of code,” she said. “For a number of years, we thought, ‘Oh, it’s easy, we can add something in. We can add one line of code.’ But one line of code builds up.”

That, she said, leads to many lines of code that slow down the consumer experience and incur a greater demand for maintenance. What companies have learned from this is to take a more holistic approach to solutions. 

She also discussed Web3, the metaverse, and NFTs, all of which hold promise for the news media industry but do not offer scale yet.

What’s taking time

The things that are taking more time include aligning tech stacks, finding the right organisational structure and working with stakeholders, aligning goals between stakeholders, and being discovered on distributed platforms. All these things are important, but they can be slow to resolve.

“Aligning goals can be really difficult,” she said. “You can give people all the same blocks, but you’re going to get different results. So you need to be very clear on what the goal is.”

Discovery on distributed platforms is also presenting a challenge for new media companies. Even though they may be on diverse platforms, there’s still a challenge in making sure all those disparate pieces are brought together.

“There are many different ways around that and people are trying to figure it out,” she said.

The Product and Data for News Media Summit continues on Tuesdays and Thursdays through November 17. Registration continues throughout the summit.

About Paula Felps

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