Launching Vox Media's first-ever editorial apps team

It's August, meaning I've been in New York and at Vox Media for almost eight months now. It's been crazy and energizing and a ton of fun. Here are some things I've worked on and what's next for me.

What I've been working on

Product manager is a new role for me. I've done very similar things in past roles, but this is the first time my sole focus has been solely on seeing a product through and making sure it succeeds. It's super refreshing to have so much focus, and I'm 100% sure I was made to be a product manager. It's a role I love and keep learning more and more about. 

In addition to launching two bigger projects, an email newsletter and new series called This Is My Next, I've been working with engineers to make many small product improvements. My role as Verge's PM means I manage the entire site as a product, and am in charge of its backlog. We've added cool behind-the-scenes product improvements like:

  • Changing the behavior of our linksets at the bottom of each article to have more granular control of which "read these next" links display where and when.
  • Added video support to our end-of-page linksets.
  • Added the option for "promo headlines" to the site, empowering editors to have a different headline at the homepage level than other spots on the site where a headline might appear standalone, without other contextual details of the story page. 
  • Changed the "trending now" bar on The Verge from being updated manually to being powered by realtime analytics data
  • Ongoing project to responsify The Verge, which will launch by the fall. 

In addition to managing the backlog, we've also worked with the newsroom to build out cool storytelling features:

When I started with Vox Media, we had dedicated product teams on each vertical, which is how we were able to build some of the features referenced above. But a few months ago, all of the product managers got together and did an inventory of the kind of work we were doing and the amount of time we were spending on art-directed storytelling, and we reassessed that structure. Which leads me to...

What I'm up to next: Editorial Apps Team!

About a month ago, I started product managing a new team, called the Editorial Apps team.  Ryan Mark, who just started at Vox about two months ago from The Chicago Tribune, is leading us from the engineering side. We have a crazy strong team, which consists of:

Apps team at Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia writing our team manifesto, June 2014. 

Our team works with reporters and editors to tell stories on the web in impactful, innovative and engaging ways. In the day-to-day, we participate in art direction and presentation of stories, editorial planning and analysis of data. Through our work, we'll focus on big-picture thinking and experimenting around how Vox Media continues to evolve its storytelling. But a key to all this is that we'll develop software and processes and provide training to support, streamline and scale the most successful of these endeavors.

And of course, we maintain close communication with video, sales, Vox Creative and the ad products team to ensure that editorial work drives revenue.

Specifically, we'll focus on these areas:

Visuals

Light art direction, code reviews, training, photos sourcing and treatment, and other light production work. High-touch graphics, illustrations, logos,  interactive visualizations and other experiences that can engage our readership beyond what is possible with text alone.

Data

Assisting reporters in retrieving, managing and analyzing data necessary in the course of their work. Building relationships with reporters and help them find interesting stories in datasets. We want to build data products that are told accurately and ethically, but also beautifully and scalably. 

Engagement 

Collaborate with editors and reporters to find ways to involve readers in the reporting and story generation process, not just at the point of publish. 

Applications

Through participation in both the day-to-day and long term collaboration on news generation, reporting and presentation, we'll identify ways to automate common tasks and templatize common designs, processes and frameworks. The software will be made available to everyone in the organization, thoroughly documented and open-sourced as much as possible.

Processes, Communication and Training

The team will continue to iterate on its process and keep up-to-date documentation that will be accessible to the entire organization. We plan to provide tools and training to editors and reporters to make them more efficient and self-reliant. The team will host quarterly show-and-tells in New York and DC to share interesting projects, inspire reporters and editors and provide a forum to surface ideas and spark collaboration (we just had our first one last week!).

I'll keep you updated on this work as the team progresses. These first few months, we're doing a lot of cleaning up and standardizing on templates and processes to make the initiation, build and deploy of projects way better. You can see a few examples of small data things we've worked on here and here, but keep an eye out for some bigger projects we have cooking.