Case Study 1: Design as New Product Development

The newspaper was a great product: fast and reliable, easy to use for the consumer, and highly profitable for the producer. People sometimes glorify the newspaper as being the essence of news itself—but it wasn’t, and it’s not. It is a product that worked really well for a really long time. Some journalists react badly to the idea that their work is a product. It violates their sense of being involved in a public good and not just a moneymaking operation. Last year, I hosted a design sprint for journalists in New York City, and some of the participants had an extremely negative reaction to the challenge of creating a news product for people’s morning commutes. It’s not that they didn’t think it was a good idea, it’s just that a few of them were offended, as if we were undermining the very nature of their work as journalists. “Journalism isn’t a product,” one of the attendees said. I was struck by how viscerally upset he was. In our advanced capitalist society, business language and paradigms have crept into every aspect of our lives, and in this sense the journalists at the design sprint were right to be wary. I too believe that serious, independent journalism is a public good (and that such a thing as a public good exists). However, while we can assert that journalism is in a different category than mouthwash, throat lozenges, and bobblehead figures of baseball players, there is a real danger in conceiving of ourselves as above the fray. This need not mean selling out or dumbing down. Rather, it means being pragmatic and staying relevant. For the purposes of this report, I use the word “product” to mean something that is produced for consumption by others.

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