EN week 6: Julia Beizer "I watch people read news on their phones any time I can find them"

Good morning, I am still very much on the hunt for wonderful people to profile. I am sure everyone reading this knows someone who would have interesting answers or has someone in mind they want to learn more about . Please send intros or ideas to profiles@evolvingnewsroom.co

I am very excited about this week’s profile. I’m lucky enough to have known Julia for a few years and she couldn’t be a more perfect example of how modern newsrooms can be a melting pot of opportunities if you show curiosity and determination. Her career has spanned roles at both classic publishers and new media startups and she is one of the best advocates for ‘the reader’ I’ve ever met.

Meet Julia Beizer, Chief product officer and global head of digital at Bloomberg Media

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What does your title mean in practice?

My team works to drive our digital revenue and reach by creating great user experiences for people. At Bloomberg, this means creating utility features that will make the news work for them -- instead of making people work for the news. We leverage personalization and notification technology, for example, to get people the news that can help them at work and in life. 

Where does the role sit/what department does your role report to?

I report to our chief growth officer and up through the business side of the organization. Technology and news are technically different departments, but we all partner together every day. 

When was the role created, what attracted you to it and what is your background?

I started my career as a journalist at washingtonpost.com, writing about the local entertainment scene in Washington, D.C.

I found myself working on projects with developers and realized I was often able to play a critical role in turning business goals or editorial desires into concrete requirements and working with engineers to better understand how technology could move journalism forward.

I later learned that there’s a whole job for this, called product management, and that’s when I felt like I found my true path. 

What is the most unexpected thing about the role?

How creative it is! Many people conflate product and project management. The latter is more specific and time-based -- how can you get a project out the door.

The former is about complex problem solving and systems thinking, finding elegant solutions that work for users and your business.

What is the most challenging thing about the role?

Ambition outpaces resourcing in every company -- and as product, you often sit at the heart of having to figure out what part of a project to cut or put off to get to a goal. That’s a hard prioritization and stakeholder management task.

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What is the most useful thing you have learnt?

Jump at every opportunity. I wouldn’t have found this career path I love so much had I not jumped at opportunities to take on new tech-y projects and learn about how they work.

News is changing so quickly now and new opportunities are arising by the minute. Try as many as you can to find the place where you can have the biggest impact.

What skills do you need for your job/do you find yourself using most often?

Listening is a product manager’s useful skill. Listen to customers, listen to engineers, listen to designers, listen to internal partners. If you listen hard enough, you’ll hone in on the actual job technology can do for them -- and strive to make it happen.

Where do you go to find inspiration, what from outside journalism do you take back and apply to your role?

I watch people read news on their phones any time I can find them -- waiting in line, during commutes. Watching people read helps inspire me to make it easier for them to do so every day and reminds me that what we do matters.

How do you make hard decisions?

We look to data to help take the emotion out of a decision and recenter a group on the best solution for users. We a-b test pretty much everything we can to make sure our choices are working for users and the business.

What do you wish you knew when you took the job?

Product is still a relatively new concept in traditional newsrooms. Working on something new is exciting and inspiring -- but it can be challenging to share a digital view of the world with people who didn’t come up in this field with one. Here again, listening will set you free. Listen to concerns and recenter your ideas on how they further journalistic ideals and solve for your business.

If you hire, what are you looking for above all else? (Are you hiring?)

Creative, curious people who like to work on teams and get things done! (And yes!)

What story or project are you most proud of so far? Tell us about how it came to be and why you are proud of it.

I am proud of so many of my projects, but most recently, I’m proud of our team for the launch of Storythreads. This project came to be because a fantastic cross-functional team of editors, designers, engineers and product managers wanted to figure out how to better serve users who come to our site from search and are trying to understand a long-running story they haven’t been following.

I’m proud of the team because it started with a very simple but very real user problem -- and turned into something beautiful that’s working for users and driving real results for our business.

What’s one thing you thought would be would happen in the news industry when you started but hasn’t? Why?

When I started at The Post in 2005, the web was really soaring as a place to consume journalism. I thought we would see many more digital natives at the top of newsroom ranks by now. We’re on the way!

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Keeping up

What is one book/blogpost/podcast/link you’d like to share?

The Silent Partner: My favorite read of all time on product management. It inspired me so much when I was just entering the field.

What or who do you like to read/listen to/watch/subscribe to/follow to keep up with how the industry is changing?

Ben Thompson @ Stratechery

What is your Favourite film/TV series about the news?

Spotlight