NC Local for April 7: ‘You don’t have to have a product title to be a product thinker’

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from April 7, with a deeper look at the NC Press Association’s support for more transparency in public employee personnel records, and the story behind Andrew Carter’s Roy Williams piece for The News & Observer. Sign up to get NC Local in your inbox weekly.

By Eric Frederick, NC Local newsletter editor

Product thinkers are essential to building sustainable journalism. They bridge all of the working parts of a news organization — linking reader needs with the means to their fulfillment; connecting the ethics of good journalism with audience strategy, tech tools and smart business models.

Shannan Bowen

Hundreds of the best product thinkers have founded a global community to share support, ideas and practice among the folks working to build a sustainable future for news. Shannan Bowen of Wilmington, who has been a reporter, editor and instructor and is one of the smartest strategists I know, is the director of product engagement and strategy at McClatchy. She was on the steering committee that founded the community, and I asked her to tell us more:

“You don’t have to have a product title to be a product thinker.” That’s the slogan a group of industry colleagues and I used for the past two years as we brainstormed, planned and created a professional association for people working in roles that shape our journalism products. The association, which launched with its inaugural summit last week, is called the News Product Alliance.

As part of the founding steering committee, I worked alongside product thinkers from small and large organizations, international organizations and universities. Our site describes the News Product Alliance best: “Our mission is to elevate the discipline of news product management and expand the diversity of news product thinkers in decision-making roles. We believe news product thinkers — those with the ability to strategically align business, audience and technology goals while integrating journalism ethics — are key to building sustainable and ethical news organizations.”

Product roles, with or without the word “product” in their title, are emerging in newsrooms or in other divisions of news organizations as the strategic force for developing products or initiatives that serve readers while delivering value to the organization’s business model. “Product thinking” isn’t just a term embraced by large, national news organizations. It’s a way of thinking that can help organizations of any type in North Carolina’s news ecosystem, from corporate-owned organizations that might have a formal product team to a news startup where journalists wear multiple hats to deliver news and information valued by their audiences.

If you’ve been looking for this kind of network with people doing similar work, or if you’re just curious about product strategy, this community is for you. I’d love to see more North Carolinians join NPA to find support to accelerate the digital transformation of news organizations here in our state while also gaining individual career skills.

The News Product Alliance aims to be an inclusive community, with members from across the world and any level of career, from students to executives. A membership program will be announced soon, featuring access to a robust Slack community, events and other programming. For more information, please join our email list and follow @NewsProduct on Twitter. Any product thinker is welcome—even if you don’t have “product” in your title.

    ➵ Why I quit my job to launch the News Product Alliance. Becca Aaronson, NPA interim president, formerly with Chalkbeat and The Texas Tribune.

NC Local News Workshop