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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

How media innovators leverage the product mindset

April 3, 2023 | By Heather Allerdice-Gerow, Media Industry Lead – 3Pillar Global @3PillarGlobal

With the rapidly changing media landscape organizations must constantly evolve or die.

In a recent BCG study, only 35% of companies achieved their digital transformation objectives.

Where are you?

Companies in the media ecosystem, including publishers, broadcasters, streaming platforms, and ad-tech providers, are under ongoing pressure to keep pace with the speed of innovation and new market demands. Many are struggling to sustain their business, which may support millions of users, while still innovating to stay ahead of the next technology wave. 

This task has been exacerbated by conflicting priorities of executives, value vs velocity, which leaves CPOs and CTOs in need of a desperate alignment to build an optimal foundation for an ecosystem of digital products.

You must build for outcomes

Fortunately, the path to solving these issues is achievable, albeit one that requires a fundamental change in thinking and execution. By taking a product mindset philosophy across the entire business, media leaders are able to design for outcomes such as: changing consumer behavior, making informed decisions, and growing top- and bottom-line revenue. This holistic approach for all stakeholders helps align priorities with outcomes to achieve results. 

The product mindset helps define individual product launches and conflicting stakeholder priorities. When applied to the entire enterprise, it can help media companies adapt for the future while also still serving their current customer base. 

How to achieve the product mindset

Defining the product mindset 

The product mindset establishes a link between product principles and company characteristics. It provides a shared experience that connects people at every level of an organization and allows them to communicate and make data-driven decisions. Central to the product mindset are three core concepts:

  1. Digital products must be self-funded.
  2. Digital products need to be chosen by the customer.
  3. Digital products are never done.

Thinking about products along these lines can help a company clear away some of the roadblocks and challenges of maintaining pace with media evolution. But putting them into practice can be a challenge. The following five steps can help make the product mindset the core philosophy across a media enterprise.

1. Define the vision 

Every product needs to create and communicate a clear vision that addresses a market problem, and every company needs a vision for what it aims to do. Does every product unite under a single vision that the company wants to push forward? If a product doesn’t fit the vision, then CTOs, product leads, and even CEOs need to have the discipline to say “no” to a new idea. 

2.  Prioritize customer needs

User-informed products solve specific problems for specific target customers. The more a business knows about its target customer, the better it can define its overall business strategy and, specifically, its product strategy. This requires careful research into questions that may seem obvious, but aren’t asked often enough in the development process. Who is the customer? What are we solving? What’s the best design to achieve the goals? Solid research ensures companies solve the right problem in the right way.

To fuel this line of inquiry, media companies must develop a strong user feedback loop that tests assumptions early, often, and regularly, through the use of analytics, UX testing, and user surveys. These are repetitive, quick, and inexpensive methods that will point the way forward for product development and revenue opportunities.

3.  Practice a lean and agile mindset

The goal of any organization is to practice its core values to the point that the process becomes invisible. The agile mindset requires predictable development and deployment processes. When all products have to unite under the umbrella of a single vision, serve a target customer, and are built on predictable processes, then everything starts moving like clockwork. 

The lean build process operates similarly. Products are built in the smallest, fastest way possible, without being tied to specific commitments. That helps spot failures early, resulting in less time lost and fewer wasted resources as companies move to evolve.

4. Excel at change

The need for the product mindset is ultimately about the need to get really good at the constant change within the media industry. The companies that will define the future can quickly reinvent themselves based on how their users and market change. 

When assessing a change, ask, “does the benefit generated from change outweigh the cost?” Again, everything should be based on data and serving the end users, not chasing shiny objects. The more an organization can justify the change to match the vision, the easier the change will be.

5. Employ strong, skilled, empowered teams

The best way to apply the product mindset across an enterprise is to build cross-functional teams that open the door to wide-scale innovation. Encourage smart failure, where ideas are tested well in advance. Sometimes the data shows that a product may be needed, but the development doesn’t quite match the need. That’s OK, as long as the red flag is raised early in the process. By empowering teams, media companies make it quick and easy to change, ensuring that they can maintain their current position while building for the future.

Navigating the future at the speed of change

Media is evolving at a breakneck pace, shifting because of changes in consumer and customer behavior and needs. Even with all of the disrupting factors at work, most enterprises should be able to maintain – if not grow–their audiences in the future. 

Maintaining the product mindset will help media businesses find new revenue opportunities, but also excel at change in the future, ensuring that they are ready to embrace the next evolution of media.

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