Happy new year! As we move into 2024, the INMA Product Initiative is expanding to include technology. The two are so intrinsically linked and technology is becoming more important than ever given the pace of change we are seeing. In this newsletter, I’ll tell you a little bit more about that.
There is still time to have input into what we cover over the year by taking less than three minutes to answer a couple of questions here.
And for those interested in Generative AI, you’ll be interested to know that I have a new colleague, Sonali Verma, who will be spending 2024 getting to grips with GenAI for news. You can register for her new newsletter here.
Looking forward to being in your inbox, on your screen, and maybe even seeing you in real life over the course of the year. In the meantime, please drop me a note if there is anything you’d like to see us cover this year. I’m at Jodie.hopperton@INMA.org .
INMA Product and Tech Initiative 2024
What do news organisations need to do to create, deliver, and innovate products that their audiences want to spend their time and money on?
As news organisations expand across platforms, product and technology roles have become instrumental to the entire organisation. The INMA Product and Tech Initiative aims to surface best practices for product thinkers in news media.
Within this scope, here are the three areas we will focus on in 2024:
1. Staying nimble in a legacy landscape
The rate of technological change is the fastest it’s ever been. GenAI products are getting better and better, which is facilitating a vast amount of change. Where it took nine to 12 months to build a synthetic voice in 2022, you can now do it in under an hour. Creating audio, auto summaries, and reformatting content is no longer innovation, it’s table stakes.
One of the big questions we need to ask ourselves is how do we stay nimble so that we can adapt? Some may be asking if they should build or buy? Having spent a week in Silicon Valley talking to tech organisations and startups, I now understand there is no way any single organisation can build to the depth that we are seeing there.
So I would now argue that the question has changed for most of the systems we use: How do we integrate effectively into our tech stack?
Last year we saw how some organisations were moving to modular tech stacks. KstA in Germany decided the legacy systems no longer cut it and they entirely “blew up their tech stack.” A risky move, but one that is paying off as they can now react quicker than ever.
News Corp Australia is in the midst of creating a modular techstack that gives product a framework they can work within. It may be a slow process to set up, especially in an organisation with many titles, but they are starting to see the dividends.
This year as we look forward, I’ll be focusing on case studies, examples, and best practices for staying nimble and being able to react and make the most of the tech changes that are coming.
2. Creating fluid cross-platform media experiences
Last year we saw a lot of activity in new products and rethinking of formats: more podcasts, human and synthetic narrated articles, article summarisation. Some are experimenting with audio playlists. Some are doubling down on visual content. Our content comes in multiple formats, as it should. But it’s a lot. Not just for us to create but for consumers to digest.
So how do we make the UX better? How do we make these transitions seamless? Because that’s what consumers expect at every level of their journey with us.
This conversation always makes me think of the Kindle to Audible experience. The hand off is exceptional. Can we do that between our formats? Between consumer devices? And across different platforms?
And the onslaught of new formats is still coming. I’m starting to hear rumblings about in-car news experiences. Plus we’ll likely have to think about spatial computing as Apple’s new headset gets into consumers hands for the first time this year.
GenAI brings news formats. It may not be in the first hardware that’s recently been announced, but chat products are coming — and they are here to stay, certainly with text and highly likely on audio. Smart speakers’ heyday may be coming soon.
As we have more formats, personalisation may be part of the answer. How can we cater to individuals rather than groups and cohorts?
Whichever way you look at it, formats and interfaces are changing. We need to figure out what to prioritise and what combination works best for the audience at hand. We need to rethink the “article page” to the “story page.” I’ll be looking at not only the formats, but how we can allow and encourage users to move between them.
3. Prioritising foundational processes that support the business
A lot of product and tech is about laying the groundwork for other parts of the organisation to operate. This isn’t the shiny, sexy stuff. But it may be the most important. This is about enabling us as organisations to create and present amazing journalism.
How can we showcase that in the best way possible? How can we provide the right tools to the newsroom? And how do we get it into the right hands?
There are two main ways I am thinking about process.
Firstly, which tools can we use to make everything easier? Are the fundamentals of CMS tools allowing for efficient workflows? Are there shortcuts we can give different departments to free up their time? Where will we see efficiencies with AI tools?
Technology plays a huge role in how every single person in our organisations operates and performs. Are we using the right tools and skill sets to determine what we should be using, when and by whom?
Secondly, are we finding internal processes that allow us to move quickly? We need to make good decisions that take views and expertise into account, without having death by committee.
Maybe there are better ways to communicate internally to get decisions made quickly. Or perhaps we find new processes for experimentation such as the FT’s 80/15/5, to get us from MVP to go/no go.
I’ll be looking at best practices in the ways we work. What can we do better, more efficiently? Who of you are doing great things that we can learn from? This isn’t the shiny stuff, but it’s some of the most fundamental work we can do to ensure consumer engagement, retention, and overall business growth.
Date for the diary: January 17 Q&A with OpenAI
Join me for a fireside chat with James Dyett, head of platforms accounts at OpenAI, to discuss ChatGPT, AI, and the implications for the news industry. This is free to members. Sign up here or if you have a story to share, please contact me at email@example.com.
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.