9 Things We Know about News Product Thinkers

… And how NPA strives to connect, empower and delight the product community

A month ago, we all gathered for the very first News Product Alliance Summit to share learnings, discuss opportunities and connect and support product thinkers from all over the world. The outpouring of energy and passion has been contagious:

  • “I learned so much from the programming itself, but more importantly, from the community of people who were eager to share resources, experiences, links, data, words of wisdom, opportunities, and so much more.”
  • “In just two days at the Summit I felt like I grew leaps and bounds as a product thinker. I know that growth will continue with the support of this community.”
  • “Like many at the event, I didn’t realize I was “doing product” until I heard others tell their stories. Everyone spoke to a degree of isolation in their organizations because they hold these unique roles, and having a community to share skills and wins can help negate that and build better news products overall.”
  • “By sharing ideas, resources, and connections, we can create real product leadership and change within our industry. Alone, it feels impossible. Together, it feels inevitable.”
Build X-Men helmet to find product people
The search for fellow product people can sometimes feel pretty lonely.

Our inaugural Summit brought together a diverse group of more than 400 journalists, technologists, news executives and educators to co-create best practices for news product management, find career support and learn from each other. We gave out 100 scholarships, 96% of which went to people of color, women and international participants. Our diverse group of participants included 108 people of color, 110 people from outside North America, and people from all experience levels, from those early in their careers (180) to news executives (71).

We also learned a lot about this nascent community, and we wanted to share these learnings since they will inform our future strategy at NPA:

  1. Product Thinkers are interdisciplinary collaborators

You are editors and designers, developers and managers, business strategists and audience experts — and everything in between. You showed us you don’t need to have a product title to be a product thinker. (Really, only 22% of you do!) You thrive at the intersections, and you experience joy when expanding the boundaries of your roles.

2. You strive for connection and community

Many of you feel lonely. If you’re in a small organization, you might be the only “product person” there — and in large organizations, you might feel detached from the legacy power centers in editorial, business and tech. You deeply value the feeling of belonging that you experienced at the Summit. “In my job at a small, local news outlet, I’m the only person who does this type of work,” someone told us anonymously. “These two days were the first time where I’ve found people I can really learn from, and even see what kinds of jobs exist beyond what I’m doing day-to-day.”

3. You want to mentor and be mentored

Very few of you had formal “product mentors” at the start of their careers, and you pledged to do better on the ones who come after you. You want to mentor and coach, but also feel a need to be mentored and coached.

4. Career paths and trajectories are a core question

Product in media is messy, and your career paths often are, too. Rather than a straight line, they are wild and wonderful circles and patterns with Ups, Downs and plenty of cross-movements. So many of you ask yourself: What’s next for me? How can I move fully into product? What’s the path to CPO?

5. There is a big need for training and professional development

Listen, we’ve all been there. You teach yourself how to “do product”, because no one else does. But at some point, you feel the need to solidify that knowledge, learn how other organizations or industries are using product frameworks or workflows and want to learn how to get better at pushing product forward in your organization.

6. You value and push for diversity and equity

Many of you know what it’s like to be the outsider in an organization as the “new product person”. You don’t want that for others, and you are eager to make journalism more equitable and inclusive, especially for BIPOC folks. “It’s been so refreshing and encouraging to see there are so many other people out there interested in making journalism more meaningful, sustainable and inclusive.”

7. You want to learn about international product practices

Maybe it’s because of the interdisciplinary growth mindset many of you have, but you really don’t feel geographic borders should impact how we learn from each other. You are curious about how other countries and regions of the world tackle product and eager to build those connections.

8. Changing culture in your organization is a big impediment

Fighting resistance is something most of you are deeply familiar with. You are the translators and connectors between editorial, business and tech, and that does not come without conflict. Driving sustainable culture change in your organizations is on top of many of your minds. “‘News product’ is almost synonymous with ‘culture change’ within news organisations, and driving this in a small organisation can be a lonely and disheartening task. I came away from the summit ready to dust off a bunch of old ideas I’d almost given up on and really start trying again in some areas, with almost immediate results.”

9. You are interested in product outside of journalism

While (or maybe because) very few of you have started their careers outside of the media industry, a large part of the journalistic product community is eager to be inspired by best practices, processes and cases from other industries.

If you attended the NPA Summit, we’d love to hear what you took from the experience, and how you’ve begun applying the ideas and skills you learned or connections you made in the month since. Tweet at us @newsproduct!

Becca Aaronson, Interim Executive Director News Product Alliance

Anita Zielina, Board Chair News Product Alliance

Editor’s Note: The quotes throughout this piece were taken from the News Product Alliance Summit’s anonymous feedback survey.

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The News Product Alliance is a community of support and practice for news product thinkers. Our mission is to elevate the discipline of news product management and expand the diversity of news product thinkers in decision-making roles. Join us: newsproduct.org

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Anita Zielina

Anita Zielina

Innovation, change, leadership, product in digital/media. 💪 Training innovative leaders @newmarkjschool. Austrian in NYC.

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