What are the media industry’s product priorities for 2023?

By Jodie Hopperton


Los Angeles, California, United States


Hi there. 

For those of you who got I break, I hope you are back and feeling refreshed. There are enough predictions for 2023 out there, so I wanted to jump straight into the areas I’ll be deep diving into for the Product Initiative this year and a few other things that are on my radar as potential impact to news products. 

Do these map out to the areas you are working on or currently trying to figure out? If so, I would love to talk to you. The work we do at INMA is contingent on you, the work you are doing, and sharing insights among each other, so I hope we can connect if we haven’t already. You can reach me at jodie.hopperton@INMA.org or book time with me directly at www.calendly.com/jodiehop

Best, Jodie

Introducing the 3 INMA Product Initiative priorities for 2023

1. Using innovative content formats to meet diverse audience needs

Product has a role in supporting newsrooms to create different content formats that will attract and engage multiple audience segments. 

For example, coming out of COVID, many of our readers are more aware — and critical of — the amount of time they are spending on screens. This awareness, combined with progress in headphone and smart device technology, means audio formats are becoming increasingly important to news organisations. 

Many Gen Zers get their news from platforms like TikTok.
Many Gen Zers get their news from platforms like TikTok.

Many publishers are also focused on how to attract a Gen Z audience, a generation that is the first digital and social native generation — one that seems more comfortable on TikTok than using news products. How should media companies approach this? Which formats should they be focusing on? Who should lead the charge internally? And how do we evaluate success?

I’ll be delving into these topics with a particular focus on audio, video, and interactive formats, looking at how product and newsrooms can work in sync.

2. Personalisation: getting the right information to the right users at the time time in the right format

Most digital consumers don’t want to have to work to get to the information they want. They expect that digital products will show relevant content to them and their interests. This is complicated for news organisations that cover a wide array of topics to a diverse audience. 

How can news organisations use personalisation tools to serve the right set of content and services to readers to maximise engagement? How do you determine how much investment to make in this area? And what are the trade-offs that have to be made? In addition to content personalisation, we will will look strategically at where news media organisations can personalise products to meet business objectives. 

Building on the personalisation work we did last year (summarised in this report), I’ll be going further into how news media organisations are prioritising different elements of personalisation around the business.   

3. Managing the product and technology partnership effectively  

News organisations are rarely as up to date with technology as they want to be. There is usually a long “to do” list that prevents teams from working on new projects. Yet product’s job is to find new solutions to user problems, which means changing existing products or building new products. 

How do you decide how much resource goes into “catching up” vs new development? And who manages this road map for resource and development? What are some of the workarounds product can use to accelerate product development without creating more tech debt or hiring more engineers? 

I’ll be delving into the relations between product and technology, how news organisations prioritise work, how technology resources are allocated, and going back to the question of who really decides the product road map.

If any of these topics particularly resonate with you and you are open to share your experiences with me, please get in touch: jodie.hopperton@inma.org or book time directly with me at www.calendly.com/jodiehop.

Date for the diary: February 1 Webinar on creating a new product within a legacy brand

Launching a new product within a legacy news media organisation isn’t always easy, but it can be necessary to acquire new readers. In this free INMA Product Initiative Webinar, I’ll be talking to people who have been through it to discuss challenges such as customer acquisition, brand reputation, and potential cannibalisation of existing products. Sign up here.  

Other things to watch in 2023

The three deep dive topics for the Product Initiative this year didn’t magically appear. I started with a long list of interesting subjects and sounded them out with a number of you, culminating in a discussion with the Product Initiative Advisory Council. 

So while I’ll go deep on those subjects, I wanted to share some of the other areas I know are relevant for many of you and what I think we should be looking out for this year: 

1. Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you will know that GPT3 has made a huge impact already. Do we know how it will change our industry? No. But it will. And it will quickly. Did you know it took just five days for chat GPT3 to have one million users? To give some context, it took Facebook 10 months to get to that same number, Spotify five months, and Instagram two-and-a-half months.

INMA Art Director Liz Wallace used GPT3 to create this example of the fast-growing technology.
INMA Art Director Liz Wallace used GPT3 to create this example of the fast-growing technology.

The starkest question to ask for our industry may be: Why would a user go between Web sites and apps to try and find what they want when a single destination can answer all questions? Of course I have massively oversimplified this, and interestingly this wasn’t on many people’s agendas. But I think that will quickly change, so I’ll be keeping an eye on all things AI alongside my colleagues at INMA.

2. Coming through in many conversations, often subtly, is bridging product and revenue — or perhaps better positioned as tying product work back to revenue. Some of this comes down to overall goals and how we measure success: LTV? Or time well spent? 

It’s hard to bring everything back to those bigger goals, but if we have too many KPIs and smaller metrics, we may find twe are actually driving a more fragmented customer experience. In the Newsroom Initiative, Peter Bale is also looking at editorial tactics and strategies related back to revenue.  

And what about the role of product as part of subscription bundles, such as premium or even cut down cheaper options? Much of this will come down to having a holistic view of revenue and the products and features that drive these streams. On this last point, I’ll be keeping a close eye on my colleague Greg Piechota’s work in the Readers First Initiative, particularly as he looks at new subscription segments.

3. We know that “if you build it they will come” doesn’t always work. This isn’t new, but it’s also not something many news organisations have cracked — at least not to a standard consumers equate to top apps. So what are the best practices of onboarding and UX across platforms?

4. Users don’t come to us just for news. Many organisations have gone through an exercise of (at least trying to) understand why people do or would come to our platforms. One of the things that has surprised me within these user needs is the desire for community. People want to feel connected, and they want things to talk about and share. How do we translate that into our products?

I’m also going to be following Ariane Bernard’s work on the Smart Data Initiative, particularly on testing (what, how, and the culture behind it).

What are the things on your horizon that you’d like me to ask other product people about?

Tweet of the week 

This is an interesting note from Robin Kwong, new formats editors at WSJ. I’d perhaps precede the tweet with “in mature product-led organisations.”

Recommended reading

This is one of the best write-ups I have seen of the potential impact of generative AI on the mediaListeners’ sonic attention is worth fighting for by Karl Oskar Teien.

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 jodie.hopperton@inma.org with thoughts, suggestions, and questions. Sign up to our Slack channel.

About Jodie Hopperton

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