Media companies have 2 ways to manage seemingly conflicting product objectives

By Jodie Hopperton


Los Angeles, California, United States


When the INMA Product Initiative started, I was convinced I would be able to outline a couple of different ways to structure product within the organisation.

I was wrong. There are just too many ways to slice and dice product. Which means that there is no magic bullet. A product structure has to work for the organisation, hierarchy, and culture (even within the subculture of leaders).

The No. 1 factor of success is having a clear (set of) goal(s) that everyone can articulate. There are two main approaches that seem to work for the news industry:

North Star Metrics

The FT led the way with this approach, and it has been incredibly effective for them. Take a look at Lucy Butler’s simple explanation of them and how they relate to product here:

The approach at the Financial Times is North Star-centered.
The approach at the Financial Times is North Star-centered.

The New York Times had a clear objective: hit 10 million paid subscribers. Everyone in the company understood this and it helped individuals and the team prioritise what needed to be done to meet this goal. They hit that goal ahead of schedule in February 2022. 

However outside of single titles, this approach may be too simplistic to be effective. 

“Measure what matters”

Many organisations are having more success with a framework that comes out of Silicon Valley, John Doers “measure what matters” OKR approach (Objectives and Key Results). This is a straightforward concept to understand (check this presentation that takes you through it with examples from the Simpsons) but can quickly get complex for multi-title and multinational organisations.

One multinational organisations told me they have worked hard to get global OKRS from 17 to nine objectives for the organisation, but that’s before you get to department and team OKRs. How do you track matrixed top level and team OKRs to ensure everything knits together? Another organisation said they had seen mixed success with OKRs: “Teams have accepted them as a way of tracking, but the actual adherence and reporting of them is still fragmented and doesn’t necessarily ladder up to strategic intent.”

You can see Conde Nast’s approach to setting and managing OKRs with Katharine Baily’s presentation here.

It’s not easy, but these two approaches seem to be the best way of aligning goals and, therefore, are making it a little easier to avoid conflict in objectives. 

During the past year, I also got some great insights into tips and tricks for managing conversations and meetings. But even with the best tools in the world, sometimes we just need to stick our necks out and do something bold, taking out the risk that too many watered down opinions can lead to a bland product. You can read more about both of these topics here.

If you’d like to subscribe to my bi-weekly newsletter, INMA members can do so here.

About Jodie Hopperton

By continuing to browse or by clicking “ACCEPT,” you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance your site experience. To learn more about how we use cookies, please see our privacy policy.