What does the perfect product team look like?

By Jodie Hopperton


Los Angeles, California, United States


I am in the privileged position of having a front row seat to what is happening  in news product right now. But as I joked with the recent INMA Silicon Valley Study Tour participants, I am not currently an operator. And if I was in your shoes, I wonder whether I would swallow my words. 

Today, I am pretending I’m in your shoes and present my ideal look at what my imaginary product team would look like. 

Since it’s the holidays and I’ll be taking some time off, I also present you with Jodie’s virtual product initiative assistant. Below is a look at the lengths it took me to make (TLDR: approximately 10 minutes on ChatGPT). 

Before you leave, I have a very quick ask: Could you take 90 seconds to tell me about your priorities going into 2024, the challenges you face, and/or the things you’d like to share? You can answer these questions here. Thank you. 

And, of course, you can drop me an e-mail anytime. I’m at Jodie.hopperton@INMA.org.

Have a wonderful holiday, and I look forward to looking at all things products and tech with you in 2024.

Thanks, Jodie

If I was leading a product team 

I speak to senior leadership about product every day. I hear about what is going well and where the problem areas are. What people are product of and what is keeping them up at night. I pull together insights, which I hope are practical, and I share this so-called wisdom with the INMA audience. 

I often get asked what I would do in someone’s shoes, which is a big ask because I am not in your shoes. I am not operating a team right now. And I admit that I don’t think there is such a thing as a perfect product team. But if I was building a product team, here is what I would do:

Goals would be simple, clear, and easy for everyone in the organisation to understand, possibly with an OKR structure. The leadership would understand the nuance behind those goals and work within that. Within this, there would be “big bets” to which resources would be directed. 

I would try to hire people who are passionate about the longer-term goals and what they can do, as well as inspire others to do to move towards those goals — not what they personally own. 

I would build squads which sat at each stage of the customer value chain — and likely a matrix of vertical squads for specific products/platforms such as newsletters, audio, Web, and mobile. 

Each squad would have a clear leader who would bring in key people at relevant times. These would not be working groups with too many people trying to make decisions to avoid taking too long and appeasing people with watered-down results. This would likely work to a RACI structure or, for something more complex, Team Topologies. The right leader will bring in the right people and data to make good decisions most of the time. And they won’t be afraid to change tack if new data becomes available. 

We’d use a Now, Next, Later framework to plan and communicate what we are doing when. Planning would be annually and quarterly to complement the short, focused sprints to achieve specific goals. 

Resources would go into ensuring good relations with colleagues. That likely means food and drink, but it may mean other things. Great work and conversations happen when (passionate) people get to step away from their desk. They would also have time to get out of the office and explore what others are doing, as Tony Fadell insists on in the book Build

The teams would have a strong focus on audience and space to rethink how we collect and manage content, as well as how we present it to different audiences across different platforms. I’d ask them to investigate modular journalism and whether that can help this quest.

Our products would be beautifully designed, quick to load, and appeal to the target audience(s). Content and formats would be personalised to the reader.

And that is my dream product life. 

But I am not building an organisation from scratch. Or trying to bend a team in a different direction. Or dealing with endless budgets to hire the people I want and with all the resources for them to work with. So please take this with a pinch of salt. I am well aware the theory is always so much easier than the practice.

Date for the diary: January 17, Q&A with OpenAI for INMA members

Presuming all has settled at OpenAI, members can 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 jodie.hopperton@inma.org.

Also, if you have some event budget you need to use up before the end of the year, consider signing up for the INMA Product Master Class on mobile-first Web sites in March 2024 or our Los Angeles Executive Study Tour in October 2024.

Your all new virtual product initiative assistant

Just in case you miss me over the holidays and have questions that need answering, I built a JodieGPT. It’s actually my assistant. 

I thought I’d regale you with the hours spent making it, but the honest answer is that it took me about 10 minutes. I already had the paid version of ChatGPT, and here is how I made my own GPT:

  • Go into “Explore.”

  • Choose “Create a GPT.”

  • Slide to “Configure.”

Fill in relevant info and be sure to upload documents under knowledge (I used reports and a few blog posts I’d written). And voila, we now have Jodie's virtual product initiative assistant.

A virtual assistant is easier to set up than one might think.
A virtual assistant is easier to set up than one might think.


It does a pretty good job of reacting. Here’s an example to quite a broad question:

My question: Where is the best place to start personalisation of content?

My personal assistant’s answer: 

Personalising content effectively is a strategic process that involves understanding your audience, leveraging data, and utilizing technology. Here’s a structured approach to begin personalizing content for your publication:

  • Audience Segmentation: Start by segmenting your audience based on demographics, interests, behavior, and engagement patterns. This can be done by analyzing subscriber data, social media interactions, and website analytics.

  • Data Collection and Analysis: Implement tools to collect and analyze data on user interactions with your content. This includes tracking page views, time spent on articles, click-through rates, and engagement on different platforms. Use this data to understand preferences and behaviors.

  • Develop User Personas: Based on the data collected, create detailed user personas. Personas are fictional characters that represent different segments of your audience. They help in understanding the needs, challenges, and interests of your readers.

  • Content Tagging and Categorization: Organize your content with tags and categories. This makes it easier to recommend relevant articles, videos, or other content types to different user segments. Ensure your CMS supports effective tagging and categorization.

  • Implement Personalization Technology: Use content personalization platforms or integrate personalization algorithms into your CMS. These technologies can dynamically display content based on user profiles and behaviors.

  • Customize User Experience: Personalize the user experience on your website and apps. This includes customizing article recommendations, email newsletters, and push notifications based on individual user preferences and reading history.

  • Test and Optimize: Conduct A/B testing to understand what level of personalization resonates best with your audience. Continuously analyze the performance of personalized content and refine your strategies accordingly.

  • Feedback Loops: Encourage and monitor user feedback. This can be done through surveys, comments, or direct user feedback. Use this information to further refine your personalization strategies.

  • Respect Privacy: Always prioritize user privacy. Be transparent about data collection methods and adhere to data protection regulations. Provide users with options to control their data and personalization settings.

  • Iterative Improvement: View personalization as an ongoing process. Continuously gather data, analyze trends, and update your strategies to adapt to changing user preferences and behaviors.

  • Content Creation and Curation: Focus on creating and curating content that caters to the interests of different audience segments. Tailor your content strategy to address the diverse needs and preferences identified in your audience analysis.

By starting with these steps, you can effectively begin to personalize content for your audience, leading to increased engagement, loyalty, and overall user satisfaction. Remember, personalization is not just about technology; it’s also about creating content that resonates with your audience and delivering it in a way that feels personal and relevant.

Feel free to ask any question to my synthetic self here. Let me know if you think she’s right. 

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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