Media companies share ways product teams work with tech

By Jodie Hopperton


Los Angeles, California, United States


Expanding on my blog about organisational structure at MediNews Group, reporting structures can look very different within organisations.  

At MediaNews Group, technology reports to Head of Product and Technology CJ Jacobs. She’s fine with this, but thinks it could be more helpful to have a chief technology officer as a peer to debate and test theories with. Daniel Hallac — one of only a few people within news media to have held a chief product officer position at three organisations — also has had the CTO reporting into the CPO. He first had this format at New York Media and is a fan, as he believes the technology should be in service of the product. 

Conversely, BuzzFeed has product reporting to technology. It seems a number of media organisations started out this way, with product managers being more delivery-led project managers and/or having dedicated people to interface with the other business divisions.  

Another structure that appears to be common is to have separate product and technology teams that “map” to each other. This can be by platform, by brand, or a mix of both. In these cases, product managers and directors generally have a counterpart or team within the technology team who are working towards the same goals (how to set these goals will be a topic we look into deeper later in the year). 

Mid-size to large organisations with multiple brands have an additional layer of complication to consider: How much is handled centrally and how much is done locally or at individual brand levels? 

I’ve spoken with Tamedia in Switzerland, Bauer in Germany, Schibsted in Norway, and Verizon Media in the United States about this. It seems the ideal scenario is when most of the development is done centrally to avoid duplication, but locally a smaller number of developers can tweak products and/or experiment by building new ones that meet their brands needs. 

Karl Oskar Teien at Schibsted in Norway sees this as a pendulum that swings backwards and forwards between brands/local and centralisation. There are benefits and trade-offs to each structure, so it depends on who is in charge and what the business priorities are at any given time.  

For smaller organisations, tech teams can be exceptionally small and still develop and support excellent products. Mike Orren, chief product officer at The Dallas Morning News, argues the U.S. company is not in the software business and therefore has opted to buy in and/or share technology from third parties. The team works with a network of similar non-competing titles to develop and improve technologies (join us for my video Meet-Up on January 28 to talk with Mike and colleagues about product prioritisation; more here).  

In summary, there is no one correct model. Business needs and structure will affect the best model to use for any given situation. We’ll be looking at overall organisational structures and how product interfaces and works with other departments in the coming weeks before we move to discuss defining and measuring goals and KPIs. 

Tweet of the week

On the Product Initiative Slack channel, I shared a Twitter thread with advice for product managers from a product veteran who is now CEO of Threads. Here are a couple of tweets from the thread that reflect many of the conversations I’ve had with product leaders over the last few weeks and months. 

Full thread here.

My ask this week: Tell us how you structure product and tech 

Help us understand the different structures for product and technology by telling us — confidentially — which title or department does your product team report into? And who are the lead product person’s peers, particularly in technology and design?

Please let me know or share your org chart with me at All information will be collated by INMA, anonymized, and summarised back to the group in this newsletter and via the Product Initiative Slack Channel.

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.