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Making the leap from editorial to product thinking

Many of the people performing product management roles in news organizations have moved over from traditional editorial roles. That shift requires some changes in mindset and work habits, as they find producing daily news content is a quite different responsibility from managing the long-term growth and usability of the product.

Several of the people at our summit who have made this transition described the key differences you need to be prepared for.

Seeing news as a “product.” We described this in the overview section as well. Most people at legacy media organizations tended to think of “news” as just the articles or video packages they produce day-to-day. Product managers have to think about the whole experience of the user — what they should get from that news and how they want to consume it.

Product management moves at a different speed than news. News decisions and activities happen by the day or minute, noted Jennifer Hicks, the executive digital editor of the Wall Street Journal. Taking on a product management role required her to take a longer term view, setting priorities and decisions about how the serve the audience over time.

Product people need to be more data-driven and analytical. News is often created by collecting anecdotes, speculating about “trends,” and applying subjective news judgment. But in a product management role, you are usually required (and rightly so) to base your decisions on rigorous research and data, noted Eric Ulken, executive director of digital strategy at the Philadelphia Media Network. To be an effective advocate for the needs of users, you need to defend positions and theories with data.

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