As technology creates new user habits, will media companies be ready?

By Jodie Hopperton


Los Angeles, California, United States


Hi there. I’ve been spending some time looking to the future and the metaverse. While much of it is fairly far off, there is one element that is happening now and is gaining more focus: How do we keep people engaged with our brand between screens, or more accurately, between formats.

If that’s not enough, today we kicked off the product master class where we’re looking at different ways to understand customers and what they want. It’s an incredible lineup of experts sharing their views. Haven’t signed up yet? You can do so here now, which gives you access to all three sessions live and on demand. 

Thanks for being part of the Product Initiative community. I appreciate it.

Best, Jodie.

Moving between devices, not always screens

I can move my iPhone close to my HomePod to keep listening to a podcast from the car > airpods > HomePod. It’s pretty seamless. I just move my phone near. On my Kindle, I can stop reading at any given time and pick up the audio version from where I left off. Again, pretty seamless. 

When our audiences want to move from one platform to another, we will be ready?
When our audiences want to move from one platform to another, we will be ready?

You see where I am going with this?

Of course, we do this now between screens, particularly through logged-in devices where we can track movements and reading/watching habits. But NewsCorp Australia’s insights into trying to understand what users want before they do got me thinking about applying the same principles to screens. 

Are we mostly working within the confines of where users expect news? What happens if we move out of that to look at where in the customer day could we add more value?

There is more and more awareness about how much time we spend on screens and how we should consider limiting it. And as we are moving out of a pandemic world where many of our consumers are stuck at home, daily routines will change. Many people have moved. Many will have some sort of return to office, which means a commute. What does this mean in terms of product? Should we be looking at new products to adapt to this? Or building on what we already have with additional features? 

Audio is having a quiet resurgence. According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in July 2021, 23% of U.S. adults say they get news at least sometimes from podcasts. This may well grow in 2022 as people get out and about. Podcasts are a fantastic standalone product or can be a companion product. TV shows such as Succession (which I’m sure has a few fans in this readership group) have built a specific podcast to complement the show hosted by one of media and tech’s top reporters Kara Swisher.  

How do we take this one step further? Going back to my initial point, can we allow our consumers to “keep reading” by switching to audio halfway through an article as they step out the door or off a train? 

Of course some publishers are working on this, and companies such as Spoken Layer have grown quickly to meet demand. But the technology in speech and audio is advancing quickly. I know one media organisation that is building synthetic voice. And no, it’s not in English. (This will be presented in the product module at our World Congress in May; more about that soon). 

Aside from this single organisation, I have seen little to allow readers to move from one format to another. If you’re working on it, please let me know as it would be wonderful to start gathering some best practices for the community. E-mail me at

Between 2D and 3D

Figuring out how we can move readers effectively between formats is going to be essential for the next wave of the Internet: the metaverse. Yes, it’s a while before we get there, and no, we don’t know what it will look like yet. But it’s coming. It’s not just the tech companies that are starting to think about this seriously. 

According to Fortune, Nike, Gucci, and other fashion companies are hiring. This is likely to focus on NFTs (non-fungible tokens), creating virtual goods for the metaverse. More related to media, Mike White was appointed to lead the Disney metaverse strategy. He was formerly the senior vice president of consumer experiences and platforms, and according to CNBC, will now be in charge of “connecting the physical and digital worlds.”  

News media companies need to watch what technology and consumer habits come with Mixed Reality.
News media companies need to watch what technology and consumer habits come with Mixed Reality.

Is this something we should actively be planning for? For all the product exces I speak to, the answer is no — not on a day-to-day practical level. Yet we need to start thinking about what this could look like and how we can stay in touch with our consumers, keeping their attention across all mediums. To me, this is the mobile platform before we truly understood what the impact of mobile would be — how social media would change the world, change us as an industry.

We recently hosted a Webinar with Cyrus Saihan at Meta who talked us through his views of the metaverse and what it could look like. Effectively, we are going to be moving between physical to 2D screens (such as watches, mobiles, computers) to 3D through glasses either as Mixed Reality or taking people into a completely different Virtual Reality.

My takeaways are that we’ll be able to configure our own settings — who we get alerts from, when, and how — but we don’t yet know what news could look like. It’s perfectly possible that we have a hologram for an anchor telling us the news each morning. Maybe they are real videos that are filmed in 3D, or maybe they are metahumans trained on an algorithm to read news just like a real human.

The technology here should be the enabler. First, we need to understand behaviour. In the same way that we need to understand what post-pandemic life will look like for our audiences, we need to watch carefully to see how habits are built, and change, as we move into this new “mixed” reality. 

As I say, I fundamentally believe that this is a major life shift comparable to that of the introduction of mobile. And as an industry, we need to ensure it doesn’t take us by surprise.

Date for the diary: Today’s product master class!

For the next few weeks, I will be geeking out on being truly customer led with a stunning lineup of speakers in our product master class How to Build Customer-Informed Products. We all talk about putting the customer at the center of the organisation and product process, but this can take so many different forms. Here we look at using both qualitative and quantitative data to make product decisions.

We had an amazing first session this morning, and it’s not too late to join to get access to the upcoming livestream and all the recordings and materials on demand. More here.

Tweet of the week

While we are talking about audio, remember Clubhouse? I still think there is and will be space for live audio, but that first comment is very true: What happens when a product is actually a feature? 

I think we are past content being a feature. That happened when content marketing came around. It’s effective. But when it comes to news, true journalism that is independent and holds power to account is necessary. It’s good to have competitors. It keeps us on our toes and thinking about our customers and what they need.

Recommended reading 

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.

This newsletter is a public face of the Product Initiative by INMA, outlined here. E-mail Jodie at with thoughts, suggestions, and questions. Sign up to our Slack channel.

About Jodie Hopperton

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