Product managers arrive

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New position in b-to-b media meets need for continual technology innovation on the Web The Internet is a constantly evolving technology, not simply a delivery platform for content in electronic form. It requires the creation of new jobs within media companies, and one area that is on the rise is online product management. Hernan Cortes, Hanley Wood's VP-project management officer, has spent most of his career in businesses other than b-to-b media. “Product management is not traditional in b-to-b publishing, but it is traditional in virtually every other industry under the sun,” he said. “Product management is an alien idea within print publishing,” agreed Michael Grover, director of online media at CMPMedica. “But because there's a lot to manage as you develop a new online product, you need a go-to person for the people in the functional areas.” What is a new product in online media? It's not only the identification of an emerging technology but adapting that technology for a group of users and/or advertisers. For example, social networking is the latest hot trend, but how can it be applied—and monetized—in your market? “Product development lies at the core of online revenue growth,” said Alec Dann, GM-Hanley Wood Business Media online. “Innovation in print is a function of editorial, but the Internet presents an infinite number of product possibilities that are technology-driven. Online, if you're not creating a new product every six months, you'll be left behind,” he said. The Internet turns product development in b-to-b media on its head, said Mitch Rouda, president of Mitch Rouda eMedia Consulting. “Traditionally, editors invented products and the technology people delivered them,” he said. “Today, when technology innovation separates the winners and the losers, product design and invention starts with the people who understand technology, and the editorial department does the implementation by delivering content for those new products.” While the product manager job function is evolving, the job is different from one company to the next. As a general rule, this person ultimately reports into a corporate or brand-focused e-media department and acts as a liaison and translator between the operating groups on one side and e-media and Web developers on the other. Therefore, online product managers need to be creative, diplomatic, up-to-date on emerging technologies and savvy about the essential business concepts of generating revenue and profit. "At Penton Media, the product manager function is well-developed. “Product managers marry market needs with the core competencies in our technology group,” said Prescott Shibles, VP of Penton Media "s new media group. Product managers reside within e-media, but they map to properties so that each online product manager will be responsible for about $3.5 million in online revenue.” Within e-media, “those individuals are absolutely the advocate for their properties,” Shibles said. “With their properties, they are the advocates for online media. They are motivated and paid based on the success they have with their publishers in driving revenue and profit.” “We require that the product managers come up with a high-level idea of what the product is going to be,” Cortes said. “The project management office gets involved from the very beginning, helping generate requirements. The product managers meet with project managers on the IT side throughout project development through launch. They also go through an after-launch exercise to review lessons learned during the project.”
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