How to get product and editorial talking

Mizzou students Abby Ivory-Ganja and Marlee L. Baldridge are at the Online News Association Conference to cover tech and innovation sessions for RJI. Visit our ONA page to see all the coverage. 

Story by Marlee Baldridge


Table Talks are small, focus-group-style discussions and I sat in on the session for how to run effective product experiments in the newsroom at ONA19.

Here are the three main takeaways from that discussion: 


1: Understanding that the time-table for every team is different

The business teams are not always encouraged to talk to editorial in newsrooms, and the need for coders and web designers hasn’t made anything less complicated. Simply knowing the work schedule of other teams will help you know expectations, and therefore know how that team can most help you with specific needs. Daily beat reporters may only plan a week or two ahead depending on their workload while an investigative reporter might plan a few months ahead. A product developer or a member of the audience or innovation team could need to be planning several months in advance for projects. Because of the difference in time tables for completion of different aspects of a project, there can be a disconnect between the editorial and product teams. Product might say, “Journalists want the moon, and they want it tomorrow!” While reporters in editorial might say, “Is this post making the kind of user-to-subscriber transition we’re looking for, and why don’t we know that already?” 

2: Plot ways for time-tables to intersect

What might seem like a simple tool or experiment to a reporter could be a dozen hours of work to an engineer or web designer.  Have a process and knowing how to integrate face-time with each other is vital. Inviting the product team to editorial meetings, and asking them to update the newsroom on what they’re doing is a great first step. Attendee Peter Berzins, an audience growth analyst for Grist, said he has taken to simply setting up “office hours” where reporters can ask him questions, even if it means just fixing their email. He said this was super effective and well-received in his newsroom. 

3: Become informed for each other’s needs

As teams talk more often, processes will become stronger and more streamlined. Teams who interact regularly will be able to plan together and create better experiments for revenue and subscriptions.


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