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Why is Product Development all the rage?

AOP’s Product Development Committee just celebrated its first birthday, with the appointment of the Guardian’s head of product development Piers Jones as chair. AOP Director Lee Baker explains the importance of this discipline for media owners.

Lee Baker

Posted on: 11 February 2011

Publishers are looking to product managers to balance and bring together expertise from across the business to continually hone their sites, apps and services over a rapidly increasing number of platforms. Crucially, they must develop these in line with what users want and value, and balance those requirements with the needs of the business.

Understanding the absolute need to connect technical, editorial, commercial, design and marketing functions at every opportunity of the development process, rather than let each function operate in a silo, is what product management is all about.

Dan Peters, Product Manager for Yahoo! Answers offers this neat definition of the role: “taking audience need, delivering business value,” coupled with getting the most value out of your engineering resource.

Media organisations are placing greater emphasis on the role; therefore, there is a need for the discipline to be supported not just internally, but by the industry. Where groups like AOP’s Product Development Committee come in is to let individuals from across UK media share tips and learn from each other, to develop standards and understanding from real life examples – as BBC Head of Digital Media Ralph Rivera said at an event last month, product management “is not something you can learn from a book.”

Old competitor barriers are redundant in this environment - the openness and collegiate nature of AOP’s Product Development Committee is striking.

But it’s not just in the media sector that the role is proving influential. Product Managers in industries such as automotive and pharmaceuticals (sometimes also called Brand Managers) command massive budgets and wield a great deal of control.

Talking about the ‘secrets of Product Success’ at last December’s AOP Forum, the panel, including the diverse cross-section of Dennis Publishing, Channel 4 and eBay, were in agreement that in the brutally competitive world of publishing, only those products and services that are easy to use and provide a compelling experience for users will be successful.

With the growth of platforms from a handful to hundreds in just the past couple of years, the more publishers are focusing on “what you should do, not what you could do”. Sorting the wheat from the chaff has never been more important and AOP’s Product Development work is likely to celebrate many more birthdays to come.

About Lee Baker
(Details last updated: 11 February 2011)

Lee Baker is Director of the Association of Online Publishers.

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