Hi there. This week I want to focus on DEI in product. What is DEI you ask? Diversity, equity, and inclusion. I already see a couple of you rolling your eyes. For those people, please bear with me.
To quote the recently launched ACT report: “The tech industry’s products, tools, and services help determine the news we consume and share… . Therefore, the industry must take great care in the design of products and technology that have an outsize impact.”
I think this applies to the news industry, too.
Not only is this the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do for your business. It should be a mainstream conversation. And so in this newsletter, I want to talk about DEI from a product perspective, practically what you can do and why it is good business.
Do you have opinions on this? Stories to share? I’d love to hear them. Please e-mail me at jodie.hopperton@INMA.org.
The ACT report: product inclusion
Snap recently spearheaded a report (which you can download here) in conjunction with other leading tech organisations on DEI in tech.
In the opener it reads:
“We take [the case] as a given: Widening the talent pool, reducing the skills gap, and creating a diverse workforce to engage the global economy are all prerequisites for successful 21st century businesses. Instead, we call for a radical paradigm shift, based on values, that makes DEI strategy and business strategy indivisible.”
Within the report, a whole section is devoted to the design of products and services, covering five recommendations:
Develop product inclusion principles and operationalise them throughout the product development process.
Prioritise accessibility in your products.
Address potential bias in your Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technology.
Consider how your company can mitigate harm from the application of your technology.
Increase representation and disrupt stereotypes in your original content, marketing, and advertising.
The entire chapter is of interest, and I encourage you to read it in full. For those who don’t have time or want to get a flavour of the report, I’ve pulled out a few sections that I found particularly relevant to the work we do on product in news. The below is quoted directly but is not the entirety of the chapter:
“Product inclusion is about creating products and services that reflect the world around us. This is a shift from the standard but outdated practice by tech companies of optimising products and experiences for a narrow set of users. As a consequence, products gravitate toward the average and tend to work well for majority groups and not as well for underepresented groups. But, average is not very meaningful when it comes to human beings, because it is normal to be different. Diversity is the norm, and good design has to respond to that diversity.
“Incorporating the perspectives and user experiences of underrepresented groups will optimise the experience for everyone. For example, take the small ramps built into curbs to allow smoother passage onto a sidewalk. They were initially designed for wheelchair users, but now they benefit everyone from parents pushing strollers to cyclists. When products are designed for those most excluded, they often improve the experience for many others. Moreover, once inclusive technology is widely used, it becomes normalised.
“Product inclusion is an end-to-end system and requires intentionality at each stage of the process. The diagram below identifies the highest leverage points that are key to successful, inclusive outcomes. While all inflection points in the process are important, Ideation, User Research, Testing, and Marketing (Strategic Narrative) are key to successful, inclusive outcomes.”
Date for the Diary: INMA member Webinar tomorrow!
Whether you find this topic super interesting or are simply open to being persuaded why good DEI is good for business, join Cindy Joung from Yahoo Inc. and me for an INMA Product Initiative Meet-Up. Cindy made the case internally at Yahoo. Company leaders were so impressed, they made it a full-time role — one she has shown results for.
Our Meet-Up is at 10:00 a.m. New York time on Wednesday, November 10. Sign up here to join or to get the alert about the video being available on demand.
Louise Story’s diversity triangle
Reflecting on her experience leading diversity efforts in her role as chief news strategist, chief product officer, and chief technology officer at The Wall Street Journal, Louise Story recently wrote a post for INMA about diversity and a format she developed called “The Diversity Triangle.”
The triangle is made of three points:
- Diversity of audience.
- Diversity of team members and company leaders.
Diversity within products.
Specifically on product, Louise writes: “Audiences expect to see people like them in the content and, more broadly, to experience inclusive product design with an eye on areas like accessibility. Beyond content, it’s the type of products, the price points, and whether they are relevant to different lifestyles that determine whether new audiences will flock to you.”
You can’t have diverse audiences/customers without diversity within products.
Read the full article here.
Diversifying the biggest fish
When I spoke to Chris Duncan, European board member of INMA and CEO of UK Publishing Group Bauer Media, he told me about how Bauer had solved a diversity problem within one of its titles. In fact, he’d set an editorial team a challenge: Think about how we can have more diversity and representation within the brand.
“For some magazines, this was more of a creative and methodological challenge, such as looking for diverse writers, being mindful of diversity in images, and making sure language used is inclusive rather than exclusive,” Chris said. “However, for one brand in particular, this wasn’t so straightforward. This magazine was a brand about angling. The cover and images tended to focus on the prize catch rather than the angler: The bigger the fish, the more likely it was to star on the cover. The angler was a secondary consideration.”
Ian Betteridge, director of audience and content development, explained that for hobbies and special interest magazines, representation is arguably even more important than for mainstream publications. Every sport and every hobby wants to be accessible and enjoyed by everyone. Even when the fish is the star of the cover, you need to show that angling can be enjoyed by all.
“Changing the covers to show diversity irrespective of the catch felt to the team like the wrong approach,” he said. “But recognising this meant they had to work harder. They started actively looking for anglers from diverse backgrounds and including them in featured content throughout the magazine.
“By working harder to make sure the featured content in the magazine included diverse voices and stories, the team made sure anyone picking up an angling magazine for the first time had a chance of seeing someone like themselves, and thus knowing that this was a sport where everyone is welcome. And far from alienating the existing readers, this has grown the audience.”
Bauer built on the knowledge that when you create magazines that focus on people’s passions — whether those are angling, cars, or gardening — the audience always wants more people to love what they love. By being inclusive and showing the diversity of everyone who shares their passion, publishers help everyone who might pick up a magazine to think, “That’s something I want to be involved in.”
Summing up they said: No matter what you love, knowing that more people can get involved — and that a magazine is working to make that happen — will always matter.
Tweet of the week
Today’s newsletter was inspired by the ACT report, which has come from major players in the tech industry. News can — actually, should — also play an important role in ensuring there is equity. Do our newsrooms and products reflect the diversity that our audience serves? If not, it’s time that they did, as this tweet reflects.
If you need some inspiration on creating products with diversity in mind:
The ACT report itself.
About this newsletter
Today’s newsletter is written by Jodie Hopperton, based in Los Angeles and lead for the INMA Product Initiative. Jodie will share research, case studies, and thought leadership on the topic of global news media product.