Hi there. It’s been busy getting our report out with 101 on personalisation. Today, I’m reflecting on what we actually deliver. We talk about news but what about information? And what does that mean for product?
I also talk about the Now, Next, Later framework. We often overcomplicate, so I love this simple approach everyone can use and understand.
As always, message me with any comments, opinions, or stories. I love hearing from you. You can reach me at jodie.hopperton@INMA.org or @jodiehop on social.
Do readers want pure news or news and information in one place?
One of the major topics the INMA Product Initiative had this year was looking beyond core news products. As I recently wrote, news can be a tough place, particularly when we are trying to build habit and encourage people to come back for more. We’re all news organisations. So what happens to information?
Coming from a publishing background, I remember when newspapers were the go to for jobs, classifieds, obituaries, dating, and more. The Internet radically changed this landscape, as many of us will remember, when the bottom line shrank accordingly. Some of us still offer more than one of these, but most have splintered off into single use products.
So are we now starting to see a shift (back?) towards news and information combined.
So, is it time to bring it back? Will that bring us new readers? To some degree, that’s what The New York Times is doing by creating digital products such as cooking, wirecutter, Athletic, wordle/puzzles, and more. They are smart folk. Is that what consumers want?
Apparently not all consumers. Riske Betten and colleagues at Mediahuis NL discovered what their customers most wanted was for them to focus on the news. It is what they do best and customers seem to have specific apps for the things they really want. I was shocked to hear this. But then realised I had a weather app for weather and Citizen for local crime (which is both awful and compelling at the same time).
If we look at the App Store rankings for “news,” very few news organisations make it into the top 10. In fact, if you take a look at the rankings I pulled, only two brands most of us would consider “news” made it into the App Store charts. And one of those is specifically because of news events at time of writing.
I know a couple of organisations looking at “utilities” that keep people coming back. An excellent example of this is stock pickers. If someone takes the time to add their top stocks into a profile, that will likely become their main source of information.
It seems there are two ends of the spectrum:
- Companies such as The New York Times, actively focusing on becoming part of consumers’ lifestyle to grow as a business.
- And, at the other end, companies doubling down at what they are good at as a “single purpose” app.
Where do you stand on this? I would love to hear any thoughts you have. I am genuinely puzzled on how to figure out the best areas for focus: core products or new products for growth.
Date for the diary: INMA Product and Data Summit, November 3-17
Coming to you virtually in five modules over three weeks, we’re looking at all things product and data from the important issues of the day to how we work, how to gather useful data, how to use data in product effectively, as well as a dive into personalisation.
The Now Next Later product framework
I’ve been hearing more and more people using the Now Next Later framework, particularly here in California. As I haven’t heard many using it within news organisations, I want to share a few thoughts and use cases around it.
Roadmapping is hard for a number of reasons. I’ve been on the business side needing some time frames and pushing developers to give answers because we need to plan launches, marketing, support, and more. Developers have often (and fairly) pushed back, telling me they are working on an unknown problem so times are estimated.
Good teams will also work on all knowledge they have available. So when new information becomes available, they need to adapt and build that into any promised timeline. By default, product roadmaps will ebb and flow based on new information, user needs, business needs, and, of course, urgent fires that need to be put out.
Now Next Later is a simple framework that is exactly what it says. The graphic from ProdPad below is a good representation of how it should be used. The beauty of the framework is that it is simple — anyone can understand and use it. It helps teams stay focused on what is important and is exceptionally flexible.
Now, within news media, we can actually use this in a number of ways. Here are a few examples:
It can be strategic: What are the company goals everyone should be focussing on now and what are the priorities within those? This is very much in the vein of Jason Jedlinksi’s presentation at a master class last year on building roadmaps (presentation here). He phrased it as priority, exploring, and not doing. It’s the same thing with different words.
It can be for conveying what teams will be working on and what they are not: Or at least not right now. Not only can you keep the teams focussed, but you can use this to explain what time is being spent on to stakeholders in the business. It’s easy to understand that if something isn’t a priority, it falls into the Next or Later categories.
It can be for a new feature: What is the MVP we need now to get something out? How will we expand on this next to build out the core into a lovable product? What are the bells and whistles we want to add later?
It can also be granular: What we are focusing on now, including KPIs leading to what we will do once we reach those KPIs and the future priorities. Think of it in sprints. Now is the first sprint. What needs to be achieved and how will it be done? Once these actions are complete, what needs to happen? Who will work on it? And what are the final points needed “later” to complete this goal?
Of course, this isn’t a perfect model and it can be over-simplistic for many needs. But as a way of framing our thinking, we should all be using something like this to prioritise our workload and that of our teams.
If you are interested in this, you can get a free template on Product Board here.
Tweet of the week
From the inventor of the Now Next Later framework comes a summary of why timeline roadmaps have serious pitfalls.
- Why “Now” “Next” “Later” is one of the best frameworks for roadmapping.
- How The Local Sweden uses product thinking to remain “useful” to readers.
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.