Jarrod Dicker from ZEUS

Jarrod Dicker, Vice President of Commercial at the Washington Post

What are the biggest decisions people working in public media tech have to make? If there was a decision they could change, what would it be? 

In this new fortnightly webinar series from the Public Media Stack, we explore the art (and science) of making tech decisions with some of public media’s prominent voices. We’ll ask them five simple questions and unpack the issues that universally affect our industry – problems with workflow, the relationship between newsrooms and tech teams, reader engagement innovation, funding diversification – as well as the presence of and reliance on Big Tech and the efforts to create alternative ecosystems. 

Kicking off on Monday August 10th we were joined by Jarrod Dicker, Vice President of Commercial at the Washington Post.  The video of the full webinar is below, and we’ve picked some of our favourite quotes from the interview.

On scaling tech products inside media orgs:

‘Five years ago it was very trendy for media companies to own their own stack, own their own revenue, and have everything in-house. Now I think this has somewhat flipped. We [at the Post] are very much established and have the teams in place and revenue models in place to be able to scale a software business separately than how we think about scaling a news business. But right now for a lot of media companies it’s actually the opposite. It’s how many things can we licence? And how many partners can we work with and allocate our resources to what we do best which is creating content and engaging communities?’

On the opportunity for shared sign-in/paywall tech:

‘One of the most interesting conversations right now is this frustration of user experience as it relates to paywall navigation. The product I think is missing and that doesn’t have a real identified case yet, is this notion of how do readers navigate and get the news that they need throughout this ecosystem, when increasingly there are more paywalls coming up. What sort of functions and products could be built that allow for this pathway?’

On Zeus as an alternative tech stack to the big platforms:

‘Long term we really started to think about how we can put the emphasis on the core product, which is content and media, and start to build our own revenue structures based on the foundation of Zeus that’s not reliant on Google or Facebook – I’m happy to partner with all these companies but we’re really trying to build a tech stack, a revenue stack, that’s connecting and bringing like-minded media companies together and building an ecosystem that’s somewhat profitable and leaning towards a different arena, making sure it’s publisher-creator first.’

Advice for media orgs developing their tech stacks:

‘I’ve always invested in building my own software stacks within the media companies or products that I work on. My advice now is the opposite. When you look at the operator to creator ratio in media companies, right now operators outweigh creators usually by 2:1 if not 3:1. Media companies invested in their own sales team, CMS, and ad tech solutions, but all of those things are not core. I think this should flip and needs to flip where you have an 80% focus on creators, journalists, audience development, the things you need to put your products out there, but when it comes to CMS, tech stacks, revenue opportunities, even sales team, these become an afterthought. You look at licensing and partnering first’