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The majority of my work focuses on News Product Management: the application of the work in newsrooms and with communities; and the theory and teaching of the practice as an emerging discipline that is still in need of significant definition and development.

Product Management

The Business of Digital News: Understanding the Cross-Functional Orchestra

This invited chapter for a 2021 edited collection exploring practical journalism research is the extension of a 2016 blog post that discussed the challenges of navigating complex organizational and cultural structures when implementing strategic change.

News organizations are full of what were once semi-independently operating business functions that are now rapidly reconfiguring and renegotiating their digital existence. What once was a set of small jazz ensembles has become a cross-functional orchestra. And for the business of journalism to prosper, news workers must both influence and adapt to these changes and find their new seats on the stage. And for scholars to understand the music, it is not enough to just study the string section or woodwinds in isolation.

Kiesow, D. (2021). The Business of Digital News: Understanding the Cross-Functional Orchestra. In V. Bélair-Gagnon & N. Usher (Eds.), Journalism Research That Matters (pp. 131–136). Oxford University Press.

From Boundary to Bridge and Beyond: The Path to Professionalization of Product Roles in Journalism

I made some contributions to the discussion of innovation bias in this paper which is otherwise largely based on Dr. Cindy Royal’s study of the early membership of the News Product Alliance.

New roles in news organizations have emerged supporting media products that demonstrate a range of digital features. Along with the requirements of these products come a new set of skills and competencies to coordinate, develop, manage and support them. Thus, product-related roles, previously considered on the periphery of a media organization, become more critical and central to an organization’s success and introduce challenges in their integration with traditional roles and processes. This study identifies those performing product roles, the networks and boundaries across which they work and the ways in which they make meaning across functions. Perceptions of those in these roles highlight a field of contradictions, in need of career development, respect within organizations and role standardization, while maintaining the professional flexibility and agility that is necessary for innovation.

Royal, C., & Kiesow, D. (2021). From Boundary to Bridge and Beyond: The Path to Professionalization of Product Roles in Journalism. Journalism Studies.

Product Management in Journalism and Academia

The business of news and the role of product management specifically are underappreciated areas of focus within journalism studies. Dr. Cindy Royal assembled an invited forum in JMCQ to discuss and reflect on the need for more attention on these topics.

A key roadblock in both industry and in journalism schools is the lack of a shared definition for “news product manager” as a job title or role. Across news organizations, product functions may be attached to news, development, marketing, or information technology, or it may report directly to the CEO, a challenge also shared by non-media product teams. Each variation endows the team with different expectations, responsibilities, and authority and adds to the complexity of integrating product approaches into the legacy structure of a company. For news organizations to complete their digital transitions, product management and more importantly, product thinking—must develop a standard model of practice as it has in the software industry and become as much a part of journalism as the inverted pyramid or the five Ws.

Royal, C., Bright, A., Pellizzaro, K., Belair-Gagnon, V., Holton, A. E., Vincent, S., Heider, D., Zielina, A., & Kiesow, D. (2020). Product Management in Journalism and Academia. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 97(3).

Affordances and Sensemaking

The Values of Print: Affordances and Sensemaking for Newspaper Consumers

In this first of a series of studies with Dr. Shuhua Zhou, we applied James Gibson’s theory of affordances to explore the implicitly and explicity offered signals inherent in the printed newspaper to understand how readers recognize and utilize different attributes of the medium to make sense of the news.

This paper examines print affordances based on Gibson’s conceptualization. We conducted semi-structured in-depth interviews with long-time newspaper subscribers to understand three kinds of affordances: physical affordances germane to the print medium, perceived affordances utilized by experienced readers, and relational affordances generated in the transactional process of news consumption. We argued that affordances offer a theoretical lens to understand print, or any other media, and in how they facilitate information acquisition in news consumption and sensemaking of the consumption process. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.

Zhou, S., Kiesow, D., & Guo, L. (2021). The Values of Print: Affordances and Sensemaking for Newspaper Consumers. Journalism Practice, 1–18.

Digital in Dispute: Affordances and Cognitive Support for Online News Consumers

Having confirmed the use of print news affordances by readers in our first study, we probed for the digital news readers for the presence of those signals online and find that while many are present, digital news provides a weaker context for understanding of some meta-cognitive tasks such as the understanding of genre and recency.

Each medium of news delivery has a unique set of attributes that facilitate or impede news consumption. In this paper, we examine what affordances of digital news sites are present or absent. Based on the perspectives of Gibson’s ecological psychology and his conceptualizations of affordances, as well as Norman’s theorizing of signifiers, we conducted an exploratory study with loyal digital news readers to query their reliance on a number of perceived affordances. We compared those findings to the affordances realized in print and argued that many signals supporting sense-making of the print news were attenuated in digital. Implications are discussed.

Kiesow, D., Zhou S., Gou, L. (2021) Digital in Dispute: Affordances and Cognitive Support for Online News Consumers. Digital Journalism