This week, Immediate Media’s Product Director Laura Jenner talks to us about drawing together the needs of different teams across a publishing business, how the roles and responsibilities of a product manager evolve in such a rapidly changing industry, and why the relationship between product and editorial is so important. She also shares her one piece of advice for other product managers in publishing.

In the news roundup Chris and Esther discuss a mixed bag of a week for News UK, the storm in a teacup over BBC journalists dropping the phrase ‘BBC understands’, and yet another Facebook fact-checking endeavour. Is Media Voices hopeful, or cynical? You decide!

In our own words: Esther Kezia Thorpe

I always really enjoy speaking to people who are in roles that wouldn’t have existed a decade ago (although most of us may fall into that bracket one day). Laura is one of these people; she started out her career as an editor, and has evolved into product management as the publishing world has changed around her. This means she has valuable experience of both being an editor, and of developing products to support the work that an editorial team does.

The highlight of this interview for me was listening to her talk about why that relationship between product and editorial is so important. Before I spoke to her, I was reading up on her thoughts on Medium, and when we talked, she reiterated that in media, the role of product comes second.

That may seem like a strange thing for a Product Director to say, but it makes perfect sense. “The success of your product in media, unlike all other industries, is not necessarily based on the work that you do,” she explains. “The reason that readers, or users, or customers…come to the product is because of what the editorial team create. They’re not coming because you’ve created a wicked new widget in the sidebar.

“The relationship is between the content creators and the readers…and you’re sitting alongside it and making it the best it can be.”

That’s not to devalue the place of product at all in the media ecosystem. She also talks about how important it is to make sure that content can be accessed, and that things like slow ads and load time don’t lose a reader. In those circumstances, both the audience and the editorial team have been let down.

No pressure at all then…!


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