USA Today’s Kris Barton on building publishing products that also make money

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Building publishing products is fraught with challenges, as product leaders have to balance various constituencies — editorial, sales, marketing — that sometimes have competing goals — all while keeping users top of mind.

“It serves its purpose,” Barton said on this week’s Digiday Podcast. “It allows both sides of the business to be represented. It allows the newsroom to be represented, and for the newsroom to be funded. There are times we want to minimize that, but there are times to say it’s delivering our goal of delivering quality journalism to our consumers and be able to pay for it.”

In this week’s episode, Barton talks about monetization, USA Today’s redesigned website, and shares a personal anecdote involving a Honda Accord.

Product at publishers has multiple constituencies
“At technology companies, it’s about the technology. At publishers, it really is the confluence of advertising, journalism and technology. The technology tends to manifest itself in the experience: how do I know what to click on next, how am I exposed to different things. But you still need to monetize it. The journalism side is so important to what the product is. That’s a very different environment than what you see at tech companies.”

USA Today’s new redesign was done in-house
“I believe we are the specialists. That’s core to what we do. Every company is different. We felt like we had the resources and capability. A lot of time consultants come in, they’ll position something to you, then they leave and you’re stuck with executing it. We knew with this design it wasn’t going to be a six-month effort but a perpetual thing.”

Balancing building vs buying
“Time to market is the No. 1 factor. It’s also knowing that anything you get off the market will require customization. I’ve never been in any large scale project where you can use a tool off the shelf. You have to think of your total cost of ownership. One of the key things we’ll do is what is the lifetime costs. The release is the start of the costs. After that, how will it be maintained? That usually opens up the answer.”

Publishers licensing tech is a temptation
“We’re trying to stay focused on what we are as a company. The news and journalism side, we want to do that well. Secondly we have our marketing solutions business. We believe that’s our core business. We try not to spread ourselves too thin and not do them well.”

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