By Mark Walker, Director of Innovation and Strategy, Aptitude Software
Last week I had the chance to attend the INMA World Congress of News Media event in New York and present as a part of the Product Workshop, moderated by INMA Product Initiative Lead, Jodie Hopperton.
I was joined by five insightful panelists who presented on a variety of topics relevant to the role Product plays in driving a successful media businesses. The session also looked at how media companies can embrace a product design process that is innovative, solves the right problems in the right way and resonates with customers.
As I was thinking back on the session for this wrap-up post, it felt like two core themes came to mind and kept coming up in the session: the importance of intently listening to the customer and building a constant iteration loop.
The importance of listening to the customer
It sounds so simple, but it’s easy to assume you know what your customer wants and then go build a product around that rather than what your customer is actually telling you they want (if you would only listen!) Fellow panelist, Katharine Baily, Senior VP, Global Head of Product & Design at Conde Nast, gave an excellent talk on the importance of using the right methodology for the question you are asking and discussed how to integrate different types of research to get a more complete understanding of your customer.
This dovetailed with some of my perspectives on how to incorporate and embrace shifting macro trends that can upend what you know about your customers, your opportunities and your strategic goals. Of course, we can’t eliminate external forces – they will always be a part of doing business. However, I would suggest that by intently listening to a customer’s reprioritization of what’s valuable in the face of these changes can help build more value in your products. With the right solution, you can look across that entire customer journey and personalize products that meet the needs of each customer.
Riske Betten, Product Director at Mediahuis NL, drove home the point that ‘you are not your user’ and that it takes deep listening to understand what your customers are looking for. She then outlined the process of asking and listening through heatmaps, screen recordings, online surveys, interviews and A/B tests. I also loved her perspectives on ‘winning or learning.’
Building a constant iteration loop
This idea of constantly testing and tweaking also came out repeatedly in the session. Karl Oskar Teien, Director of Product at Schibsted Subscription News talked about flipping the idea of finding a solution on its head to instead focus on whether your team are solving the RIGHT problem. The job of the product team then becomes exploring all the ways in which the problem may be solved rather than building a solution specified by senior management.
Kara Chiles, Sr. Vice President – Consumer Products at Gannett, ran an excellent session on how to simultaneously manage current expectations while building innovative products for the future. I loved her takeaway that ‘smart risks will still feel uncomfortable, and organizations need to be willing to disrupt an audience that is comfortable in order to create innovative products’.
Bring the two themes together
Today’s media companies need the flexibility to respond – almost in real time – to the changing needs and demands of consumers. This constant ability to react to customer sentiment, iterate and test, requires that product teams have complete flexibility at every stage of the customer lifecycle from Registration / Login to Product and Content pages, Check out and Self-care.
With full flexibility, media companies can drive increased customer loyalty and satisfaction, support revenue diversification and reduce churn.