Ringier Axel Springer Poland product team morphs into tech team

May 14, 2024 | by magnews24.com

Hi there.

You may have seen me ask about product and tech organisation structure. The most frequent question I get is: “What is the best organisation structure to be truly product led?”

Which is an almost impossible question to answer because of the dependencies, but I am starting to draw some clear conclusions. I am busy putting those together in a report — questions, anecdotes, and case studies all welcome. 

In the meantime, I want to share a case study that really resonated with me and many of the things I am seeing. So today I am sharing that with you. 

Alongside this I noticed a news-ish design for iOS alerts which is visually pleasing, consumer driven, and may have a serious impact on news companies’ biggest source of traffic from apps: alerts. 

Would you share some information about your organisation framework? If so, please get in touch via e-mail or book time with me.  

All the best, Jodie

A case study in product and technology organisation

While prepping for the master class on mobile Web sites, Ringier Axel Springer Poland Head of Product Grzegorz Krawczyk and I got talking about organisation structure.

At the beginning of 2024, the news company completely changed its product and tech organisation. Formerly reporting to the business, Grzegorz and his product team changed reporting line to the CTO.

Product was being morphed into the tech team.  

The product team at Ringier Axel Springer Poland now reports to the chief technology officer.
The product team at Ringier Axel Springer Poland now reports to the chief technology officer.

Now, it’s a rare case that one team enjoys being moved into another, but eight weeks in, Grzegorz explained what had happened and the positive aspects he is already seeing. He and I both thought this should be shared with the INMA community, so here is a run down of the new structure, plus a few caveats of what may or may not work elsewhere. 

Firstly, it should be noted that Ringier Axel Springer Poland has multiple titles, including Onet, the largest Web portal in Poland (U.S. folk could compare it to Yahoo). So this structure is reflective of what may work in a larger organisation.  

As director of media product (which is often referenced at CPO) Krawczyk has five key areas of responsibility:

  1. Software engineering
  2. Product, newsfeed
  3. Content services product
  4. Growth including SEO, marketing automation, and social
  5. UX and design

What’s new and notable here? A few things. Let’s break them down. 

Transformation stage. Ringier Axel Springer Poland tested various structural solutions. For years, the product department was centralised and played a traditional role translating business needs into technology solutions and vice versa.

More recently, product teams were placed closer to the business, strengthening the role of managing directors and their influence on the product agenda, but technology continued to operate in separate structures. After examining all the possibilities, it turned out the best solution — as in many companies around the world — seemed to be a combination of technology and product. This also served the purpose of the business. 

The UX team had been centralised in the organisation, separated from design. Now the two teams are being brought together and are working more closely with the technology and product teams.

Having this under one team makes everything a lot smoother. It’s rare that I see UX and design without a reporting line — or a very strong link to the product team — because it’s so hard to extrapolate where one finishes and the other starts.

Software engineering is now part of this product and tech team. Again, I am seeing this more and more. It’s essential that product and tech have to make decisions together. There will always be a tension between product wanting to build quickly and technology wanting to build a stable architecture, but sometimes a little tension is good as it helps to get to a balanced decision. 

Having both in one team means tech debt is likely to be reduced because the head of the department is incentivised to bring it down, not make it someone else’s problem. The big question here is about knowledge and skills. It is often thought that deep engineering skills are needed to lead a software team. However with the right management and leadership skills, it can work.

As head of product, Grzegorz had already worked closely with IT professionals for the past eight years, so although some technical terms are foreign, he understands the technology. Therefore, he has found people have reacted positively. It’s the beginning of a long — but positive — road. 

Data resides in a separate department, managed by the AI and data director. This team also has IT specialists, product specialists, as well as analysts and data scientists. Why didn’t it move? This is an important point to recognise: because it worked. 

This was already a highly functional team serving the business. Something that is important to note: Some of these decisions are personality driven. It’s more important to get the right people in the roles that draw the right boxes on an org chart. If you have teams in place that work well together, the actual reporting lines and structure is less important and you can do more damage by making changes. 

Marketing remains separate. The team is broken down into smaller teams that serve each business function. There is overlap between growth and marketing, which can cause gray areas, but they mirror each other and work closely together.

For example, growth is responsible for the effectiveness of SEO such as site speed and visibility, while editorial growth is responsible for CTRs and traffic from SEO. Product lays the groundwork and sets the infrastructure for marketing to operate. Again, these two teams have to have a good working relationship  

Lastly, I mentioned that product reported to the CTO yet manages software engineers. So what are the other areas of the business the CTO has responsibility for? He oversees additional business units including their digital publishing platform Ring Publishing, hardware and development ecosystem, as well as technology teams serving other areas of Ringier Axel Springer Business like monetisation, data, and corporate solutions. 

Grzegorz added that overall leaders who believe in this direction and are able to take responsibility for this transformation play a very important role. They have the right leadership and buy in at the top of the organisation.

Are Apple scheduled summaries the new newsletter?

Coming off the back of our mobile-first news sites master class, I am not only becoming more aware of great mobile design, I am seeking it out. And Apple has created something pretty smart. 

First let me set the context. As we know, alerts serve as a huge traffic driver. In fact, it’s the most important driver from external sources for subscribers as shown by the Chartbeat data below.

Chartbeat data shows alerts are the key driver of subscribers from external sources.
Chartbeat data shows alerts are the key driver of subscribers from external sources.

This makes sense and we know alerts drive traffic. Therefore we think carefully about the content and timing, likely in the same way we do newsletters, another traffic driver. But so far we have had little control over design.

So I was surprised to see this innovative design on a news alert on my husband’s iPhone. It was the first time I was seeing this particular set of — visually pleasing — alerts from Apple News. Naturally I signed up, too. 

In the images below, I have contrasted the two types of news alerts. The standard alerts, on the left, have a simple logo to the left and a text on the right, with headline in bold. 

On the right you, will see examples of the evening summary, the evening summary on a lock screen, and the morning summary. It showcases up to three brands and two stories with the total number of articles quietly residing in the top right corner.

Examples of Apple summaries.
Examples of Apple summaries.

This is, of course, Apple led. But it’s consumer driven and the set up is pretty easy (see below). Although I dont know the take up of this function, it seems safe to assume it would gain more prominence if users do indeed create a habit from them.  

The Apple summary set-up is user-friendly.
The Apple summary set-up is user-friendly.

What does it mean for us?

A pessimist may argue we’re losing control over alerts. An optimist may argue the design is better and a consumer can truly decide, which means we have more incentive to make it work for them. 

I’ll leave you to try it out and decide which side of the aisle you fall on. 

About this newsletter 

Today’s newsletter is written by Jodie Hopperton, based in Los Angeles and lead for the INMA Product and Tech Initiative. Jodie will share research, case studies, and thought leadership on the topic of global news media product.

This newsletter is a public face of the Product and Tech Initiative by INMA, outlined here. E-mail Jodie at jodie.hopperton@inma.org with thoughts, suggestions, and questions. Sign up to our Slack channel.

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