Is product innovation dead?

By Jodie Hopperton


Los Angeles, California, United States


That’s a slightly dramatic headline, but I have had a number of conversations recently about focusing on the core products.

Last week I wrote about refocusing on the customer value chain. This week I want to look one step further. It was a question that was recently proposed to me: What are your views on optimising existing (core) product vs. building something new for audiences with lower WTP (willingness to pay)?

Let’s look at both sides of this: 

It probably makes a lot more sense to focus on maximising the audience(s) willing to pay before we chase new ones. If we know who has the propensity to pay, our duty to the business is to go for the highest bang for buck. In reality, most news organisations have likely not reached the full potential of their core product for paying audiences, so there still needs to be a focus on that before spending much resource looking to the future. 

Does that mean we are no longer focusing on user problems? No. We’re prioritising the problems of those most likely to pay. Those will yield the highest monetisation gains. 

On the other hand,  the future will bring new landscapes, which likely means new products and we can’t get left behind (again). Generative AI is an example of this.

Personally I love shiny new things, and I get to see a lot of them based in California. I’m an advocate for AR/VR as spatial computing is likely to take off in the next few years, and I’ve recently spent a little time looking at Proto Holograms and the new Sphere entertainment centre (both of which are exceptional by the way). 

INMA Product initiative Lead Jodie Hopperton is here for all your innovation needs. Here she is earlier this summer experiencing Pronto holograms.
INMA Product initiative Lead Jodie Hopperton is here for all your innovation needs. Here she is earlier this summer experiencing Pronto holograms.

These are the future, but they don’t warrant expenditure right now because the cost is high, the return is unknown and likely only after a long timeframe.

So what is the ideal split between core focus and innovation? 

Before you decide, there are a few other things we need to bring into the mix. 

1. Firstly and importantly is team capacity. Because capacity is extremely tight, innovation is a luxury.  

2. Secondly is deciding what we are optimising for. This is a bigger conversation, but while most people reading this will be focused on core objectives such as engagement and retention, it may be that we need to look at different audiences and how we engage them. Perhaps we don’t optimise for a single thing but have specific targets for specific niches. 

For example, Schibsted focuses on getting users to take specific actions — signing up to specific newsletters or downloading an app — as these actions are more likely to trigger behaviours that lead to engagement. It may be that one of those niche audiences or desired objectives requires innovation.

3. Lastly, but also importantly, is motivation. News can’t compete with tech salaries, so it’s hard to attract top talent. But if we allow people to work on things they are passionate about, that’s a key selling point. And most people like working on shiny new things. 

So that split between core and innovation is an equation of time, goals, objectives, and motivation. 

I’d love to hear your views on this. What percent of your focus is improving core products vs. building new ones?  And how do you optizimise for different audiences? Drop me a line at or hit me up on Slack.

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About Jodie Hopperton

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