Podcast: Julia Beizer on Building Product at Bloomberg Media

We talked about her transition to product, how product is different in media than in big tech and what companies should look for when hiring their first PM.

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Julia Beizer is Chief Product Officer & Global Head of Digital at Bloomberg Media. While Bloomberg is primarily known for its terminals, the digital team has built a robust media operation that has now added hundreds of thousands of paying subscribers.

In this episode, we discussed quite a few different topics, but a few things jumped out to me...

On program managers vs. product managers

A big mistake that media companies make is that they hire product managers because they need someone to "get stuff done." But as Julia explained, "everyone can get stuff done."

What companies are actually looking for is a project or program manager. This is a person who is very focused on the delivery of certain features or initiatives getting out the door.

Product management is more expansive. These are people that sit at the intersection of competing business interests: user needs, commercial interests, editorial vision and resources. Product managers synthesize all of these ideas and figure out the best thing to do.

On building a revenue optimization system

I call this a revenue server and Julia calls it a revenue optimization system, but they are effectively the same thing. How can media companies look at their users and determine the right way to monetize each visitor?

Bloomberg is in the early stages of this and it's pretty manual. A few of her people meet with the subscriber and advertising sides in a meeting called "Project Needle" because they are trying to thread the needle of maximizing revenue on both sides.

This refocuses the conversation from RPM (revenue per thousand) to the lifetime value of a user. It's not just about understanding how much a single page makes, but how much a user across the website generates for the business.

On advice from Jeff Bezos

Soon after Bezos acquired The Washington Post, they were discussing a product that was being preinstalled on Kindle Fire devices across the country. They mentioned that they were going to bring the product to user testing.

Bezos’ response was, “hey, that’s great and you should obviously get that user feedback, but you also want to think about, do we love it? Do we love this product?”

This goes against everything taught in product school, but the lesson Julia has taken to heart is, “if you deeply, deeply understand your customer and get in the mindset of your customer, you’re a good barometer of what the right thing to do is for the business.” 


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