Product Management for Journalists

Instructor: Aron Pilhofer, Becca Aaronson and Cindy Royal

October 16 - November 12, 2017







Welcome to the Knight Center's new MOOC Product Management for Journalists! In our Product Management for Journalists course, you will learn about the culture, strategy and processes associated with managing digital products in newsrooms and journalistic settings.


Registering in the platform is easy. Please follow these steps:

  • 1. Create an account in the Journalism Courses system. Even if you’ve taken a course with us before, you may need to create a new account. Check to see if your previous username and password work before creating a new account.
  • 2. Wait for a confirmation in your email indicating that your account has been created. If you do not receive this, please check your spam folder.
  • 3. Log into the platform, scroll down until you see the course listings, and click on the “Product Management for Journalists” course.
  • 4. A button will appear, click “Enroll” to enroll yourself into the course. You will be able to access the course from the “My Courses” menu at the top of the page.
  • 5. You will receive an email confirming your enrollment.

Please add the email addresses knightcenter@austin.utexas.edu and filipa.rodrigues@utexas.edu to your address book to ensure you receive emails about the course.

In this course, you will learn about the culture, strategy and processes associated with managing digital products in newsrooms and journalistic settings.

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Explain the role of a product manager
  • Describe the elements of product management culture
  • Apply product management processes to a news organization
  • Describe best practices in digital product management

This course is open to anyone interested in learning about product management and the emerging role of product manager in journalism. Journalists, editors, technology professionals, students and faculty should enroll. Those already involved in product management functions are encouraged to join the course to add to the discussion and provide additional insight on the topic.

This course only requires you to have access to an Internet connection and Web browser

First of all, note that this is an asynchronous course. That means there are no live events scheduled at specific times. You can log in to the course and complete activities throughout the week at your own pace, at the times and on the days that are most convenient for you.

Despite its asynchronous nature, there are still structures in place for the duration of the course. The material is organized into four weekly modules. Each module will be taught by Ben Welsh and will cover a different topic through videos, presentations, readings and discussion forums. There will be a quiz each week to test the knowledge you've gained through the course materials. The weekly quizzes, and weekly participation in the discussion forums, are the basic requirements for earning a certificate of participation at the end of the course.

This course is very flexible, and if you are behind with the materials, you have the entire length of the course to complete them. We do recommend you complete each of the following before the end of each week so you don’t fall behind:

  • Video lectures
  • Readings and handouts/exercises
  • Participation in the discussion forums
  • Quizzes covering concepts from video lectures and/or readings

Module 1: Background and History of Product Management


Cindy Royal, Professor and Director, Media Innovation Lab, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Texas State University

Module 1 will cover:

  • Definition, history and background of product management
  • Product management terminology
  • Examples of digital media products

Module 2: Developing Product Management Culture and Strategy


Aron Pilhofer, James B. Steele Chair in Journalism Innovation at Temple University, formerly Executive Editor of Digital at The Guardian and Associate Managing Editor for Digital Strategy at The New York Times

Module 2 will cover:

  • Product management in a newsroom versus a technology company
  • Getting buy-in throughout the organization
  • Hiring practices
  • Tools that work and some that don’t
  • Challenges to product management culture in a media company
  • Developing metrics

Module 3: Executing a Product Management Strategy


Becca Aaronson, Product Manager, Texas Tribune

Module 3 will cover:

  • Connecting brand goals, technical resources and user experience
  • Collaboration tools and design thinking exercises you can use
  • Tips on establishing influence without authority
  • Applying metrics

Module 4: Best Practices in Product Management Strategy


Cindy Royal will interview several product leaders in media organizations and identify additional resources for further exploration of this topic.


Aron Pilhofer is the James B. Steele Chair in Journalism Innovation at Temple University. In addition to teaching, his work is focused on new business models, digital transformation and innovation in news. Before joining Temple, Pilhofer was Executive Editor, Digital, and interim Chief Digital Officer at the Guardian in London. There, he led the Guardian's 200-person product and technology teams as well as heading visual journalism -- including pictures, graphics, interactive and data journalism.

Prior to joining the Guardian, Aron was Associate Managing Editor for Digital Strategy and editor of Interactive News at The New York Times. He was responsible for helping develop and execute the newsroom's approach to technology, new product, analytics, interactives and social media. Outside the newsroom, Aron worked closely with the business side, helping lead development of new paid products and representing the newsroom's interests in the areas of product and technology.

Aron joined The Times in 2005 as a projects editor on the paper's newly expanded computer-assisted reporting team, where he specialized in stories related to money, politics and influence for the politics desk and Washington bureau.

Prior to The Times, Aron was database editor at the Center for Public Integrity in Washington. Before working at the Center, he was on the national training staff of Investigative Reporters and Editors and worked for a number of years as a statehouse and projects reporter for Gannett newspapers in New Jersey and Delaware.

Aron also co-founded two news-related startups: DocumentCloud.org and Hacks & Hackers. Launched in 2009, DocumentCloud.org improves journalism by making source documents easier find, search, analyze and share online. DocumentCloud.org now contains close to 1 million documents and is used by more than 800 newsrooms worldwide. Hacks & Hackers, also created in 2009, is an informal organization that brings journalists and technologists together.



Fascinated by a co-worker’s demonstration of HTML, Cindy Royal started her first website in 1996, a concert review site called onthatnote.com. This hobby inspired a career change focusing on the effects of the Internet on communication and media. After 13 years with NCR Corporation and Compaq Computer, she enrolled in the journalism program at The University of Texas at Austin, earning a Ph.D. in 2005. She is currently a professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University, leading the Digital Media Innovation sequence and is the founding director of the Media Innovation Lab. Cindy is most proud of her students’ accomplishments, with many having gone on to careers at The New York Times, NPR, Austin American-Statesman, Blackbaud, Spredfast, Homeaway, South By Southwest and more. She has been recognized with several teaching awards, including the Presidential Award for Excellence from Texas State University and was named the AEJMC/Scripps Howard Journalism Teacher of the Year in 2013. Cindy was a member of the 2013-2014 Knight Journalism Fellowship class at Stanford University. She is an organizer of the Austin Hacks/Hackers chapter. More information on her background and activities can be found at cindyroyal.com.



Becca Aaronson ensures that The Texas Tribune's technology products align with the organization's audience and brand objectives. She helps maintain and improve the Tribune's website, coordinates cross-departmental projects and conducts user research to improve reader experience. Becca joined the Tribune in 2010 as a journalist, and covered health care from 2012-2014. A founding member of the Tribune’s interactive data and visuals team, Becca developed interactive feature stories for the Tribune before moving to her current position. She is an organizer of the Austin Hacks/Hackers chapter. Becca has a bachelor’s degree in cultural theory from Scripps College in Claremont, Calif.

A certificate of completion is available for those who meet all of the course requirements, and pay online an administrative fee of $30 (thirty U.S. dollars), using a credit card. After November 12, the Knight Center will send a message with an online form you can submit, if you are interested in the certificate. The online form will be available during the last week of the course. After the form closes, the Knight Center team will verify if you fulfilled the course requirements. This process takes at least a week after the form closes. After confirmation of course requirements, the Knight Center will send a message through the course platform with confirmation that you fulfilled the course requirements and you qualify for the certificate. In this message we will also send you instructions for how to make payment.

For those that meet all of the course requirements, a certificate of completion will be available to download, in PDF format. No formal course credit of any kind is associated with the certificate. The certificate is awarded by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas to attest to the participation in the online course.

For those that want to receive a certificate of completion for the course, you must meet the following requirements:

1) Complete weekly quizzes with a 70% score minimum by the weekly deadline.

2) Watch weekly video lectures and review weekly readings.

3) Participate in at least 1 discussion forum each week by given deadline.

If all requirements are met, an electronic certificate in PDF format will be emailed to the student.

Please add the following email addresses filipa.rodrigues@utexas.edu and knightcenter@austin.utexas.edu to your address book to ensure you receive emails about the course.





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