Estates Gazette commercial product director on the ‘outside-in ethos’ of product managment
This article is part of a series looking at some of the key issues and topics which will feature at Digital Media Strategies which will be brought to you by TheMediaBriefing and Gigya this March.
The move from print to digital media has changed more than just the medium in which publishers work, it’s changed the structure and skills their teams need to be successful.
Central to that shift has been the emergence of the product manager role as integral to process of getting content to audiences.
According to Huw Cahill, commercial product director at Reed Business Information’s Estates Gazette, the most important part of the role is making sure the organisation is focused on the customer:
«It is a new concept for media businesses, particularly for businesses that have had a strong editorial focus and particularly where there’s been magazines. We’re bringing in more product managers into RBI, into Estates Gazette, to help us get that outside-in ethos into the business, getting customer insight and putting customers at the heart of what we are doing.»
«As part of that it is kind of transitioning away from what I would characterise as an editorial mindset of ‘we produce content, we produce new ideas we know what we should be doing in this market’, and actually getting customer voices, doing customer research and getting that in to shape new opportunities.»
As a result, Cahill says that, along with the analytical and management capabilities he sees as core requirements, the attribute he most values in prospective product managers is a desire to understand the problems customers are facing:
«What sets people apart for me is the passion around putting customers at the heart of what you do, that real understanding of your customers, falling in love with the problems they have got and then moving on to the solutions.»
Many business-focused titles are facing even greater demands to take a product-like approach to what they produce because their customers are looking for services that fit into their working lives. However, Cahill says product management in B2B is under many of the same pressures as consumer media:
«There is a difference there, certainly with the pace of change we’ve seen in B2B markets as they have gone down the workflow and data route, but I don’t think it’s an easy distinction to make. One of the challenges we face is around the user experience and the tools they are using, and actually a lot of the tools people use as a consumer in their personal life, they kind of expect the same level of user experience in their professional life.»
Cahill believes the product management role is especially challenging in media businesses because they are facing competition from tech startups that are already used to moving far more quickly:
«A challenge that we have as a business, and probably most media businesses, is if you’ve been geared up to be a publisher for 50 or 100 years, suddenly you are being faced with startup enterprises who quite quickly and aggressively move into a space and disrupt.
«The challenge we have is getting stuff built and out the door. Increasingly we are having to look at more innovative models to deliver new products to the market, deliver them quickly and effectively. Increasingly as part of product management you are looking at what new models and new ways can I speed up delivery for the busineses I’m working in.»