The Power of Product Thinking in newsrooms

The product thinking concept is a revolutionary new approach in dynamic modern newsrooms shifting the focus from content-centric to being more user-centric. The paradigm shift to user-centricity has helped newsrooms build better products for their audiences.

SAMIP recently hosted an online session on product thinking led by the co-founder of Media Hack Collective, Laura Grant. Laura is a seasoned data journalist with over 20 years of experience in South African media. The session was aimed at delivering insights on product thinking, how it relates to newsrooms, and the role it has played in the success of Media Hack.

What is product thinking?

In the news business, a product could refer to any element designed to engage the audience in a particular way, such as a newsletter, website, or story series. The simple way to define product thinking is that it is the skill of knowing what makes a product useful and loved by people. 

Laura defines product thinking as “a process for building media products and services that are user-centric, with focus on finding the problem and a solution that has value to your users and fits into your company’s business strategy”. 

Laura’s definition provides an understanding that, at the root level, product thinking is about problem-solving and so the next question is, how? There are various product thinking methods and ways in which problems can be ‘solutioned’. Laura mainly focused on three  methods that Media Hack applied to its success:

  • Brainstorm ideas

Brainstorming is a relaxed and informal approach for generating ideas and problem-solving. It is a group creativity technique that encourages an environment to share thoughts and suggestions. “This is a good way to get people to collaborate, it is a safe space even for the shyest of people to feel open to contribute. Brainstorming can be done remotely with various tools, Media Hack uses Google Jamboard as our go-to brainstorming tool” explains Laura.


  • Conduct rapid prototyping

Before a product can be put out there, it needs to be tested.  “Rapid prototyping has helped us in finding out whether a product is desirable without using too many resources, but most importantly, it has assisted Media Hack to improve its products over time because we now know what the user wants,” says Laura. Prototyping simply is the experimental model used to validate ideas, concepts, or processes. Conducting rapid prototyping can assist in finding out how the product is received by users, if there is a need for changes or improvements, and whether the product is worth investing in or not. 

  • Know what success looks like

At the end of it all, the aim is for the product to become a success and that is why it is important for you to know what defines it. Knowing what success looks like starts with setting clear goals from the beginning and knowing how to measure them. Laura says that “Media Hack realised its success when we finally knew for a fact who our target audience is and how to exactly reach them”.