‘We’re not resourced like a big tech company’: The challenges of doing product at a publisher

Product leaders have to think about every facet of a publisher’s operation to do their jobs well. They also have to help solve the problems of almost every single stakeholder within their organizations.

Following this week’s Digiday Publishing Product Leaders Retreat, a number of attendees sounded off on the biggest challenges in their jobs. They were granted anonymity in exchange for candor. In some cases, their responses have been condensed.

Recruiting talent
“It is getting harder to recruit tech, product and design talent due to the competition with tech companies. How do we manage resources and priorities when we are doing so many different things?” — executive at a magazine publisher

“Creating space for innovation. We’re not resourced like a big tech company, so it’s easy to spend all of your time on small improvements and ad tech. But to thrive you need to innovate and find time for those efforts.” — executive at a digital publisher

WTF strategy
“Biggest challenges are prioritization and execution. We are not lacking ideas — some better than others, but all worthy of some mind space. Balancing the necessary work to keep the lights on with rewarding, innovative future-looking projects and with everything in between is the challenge. But that’s the job!” — executive at a legacy media company

“We’re the hub that helps the company define its priorities and goals, but the road to resolution is very bumpy across all of the stakeholders. Our in-house product team is small: four designers and six engineers, which requires that we maintain a high level of efficiency to be able to deliver on all of the commercial and operational needs. The ability to innovate is limited to what we can accomplish under the radar. Only once we’ve tested and proven some success can we bring it to the greater organization to invest in.” — executive at a magazine publisher

“Ads suck for users, and we can’t always fix the ad experience ourselves.” — product leader, digital publisher

Going back to the drawing board
“Being prepared to be wrong. We use the data that is available to us to form hypotheses, but testing can prove that our hypothesis was incorrect. Being prepared to be wrong allows us to pause and refocus on a better approach.” — director of product management, magazine publisher

Changing the company mindset
“Introduce looking at data, bringing other parts of the product in line and getting the CEO to realize what people we need if we are hoping to get real growth. All our clients want is 10,000 pageviews with zero targeting for $20,000. It’s so hard to talk product, user experience or data.” — business head of a digital-native publisher

Figuring out how different revenue sources fit together
“Creating yield solutions to effectively optimize across all of our revenue streams. We’re considering tech solutions going forward, but as of yet, we do not have a fully comprehensive yield optimization solution across these revenue types.” — product director at a digital-native publisher


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