This week Product School hosted Jeremy Toeman, CPO at WarnerMedia Innovation Lab for an #AskMeAnything session. He discusses the entertainment industry’s future, user experience, how to be a good leader, skills, remote challenges, and more!
Meet Jeremy Toeman
Jeremy is a Product Leader with a deep track record and experience building innovative media, hardware, and other consumer products. Currently, he’s leading Product & Technology in the WarnerMedia Innovation Lab, looking to build the next generation of digital immersive storytelling experiences. Most recently, as interim CPO of Joyn (the Hulu of Germany), Jeremy worked with the Product Development organizations to launch their OTT streaming service. He was also responsible for Board and company-wide product strategy presentations and building the product organization.
Product at WarnerMedia
How do you define the product roadmap at WarnerMedia? Do you focus on specific features the team is delivering or business results?
My area of focus is around innovation, so I’m not overseeing specific roadmaps from CNN or HBO, etc. Across a general/platform perspective. Most of the way we are prioritizing is by either multi-platform use, for example, products/tech that would impact multiple brands, or by leapfrogging opportunities: building technology for 1+ products or brands that enable them to hopefully skip ahead of their competitors in some way.
How would you see the future for WarnerMedia?
I think our future is quite rosy to be honest, we have some of the best content ever made (and are still making it), a new & dynamic leadership team, and the attitude and aptitude to continue transforming ourselves into the future.
Where do you see the entertainment industry evolving in the next few years?
Today, the entertainment industry is primarily media companies using technology. I’d argue in the future, we will see technology companies using media. Netflix is already there in most ways, all the rest of us are en route.
If my friend were to convince you to take his interview for an APM role at WarnerMedia, how would you recommend he goes about it?
He absolutely must get up to speed on the industry in some way. We have a ton of nuances on how our world is so different from other apps, websites, services, and more. So when people come in and they have zero clues about media, its a challenge.
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What are your thoughts on the future of subscription models in the Media Industry? How do you think they will evolve in near future?
I think we’ll see more sub-models to come, but the area that’s growing the fastest is Advertising-Supported Video on Demand (AVOD), as it turns out a tremendous amount of audiences are more than fine with free TV and some ads. That being said, I’d expect we’ll see more experimentations with bundling (For example Hulu with ESPN and Disney and Live), with personalization ($xx/month for any 10 channels you want), etc..
What are some thoughts or ideas on building interactive user experiences on TV platforms to compete with Gaming platforms? How are you planning to leverage data for measuring the success of these tools and interactions?
Firstly, I think you should expect to see more interactive style user experiences on these platforms. Today its basically “you are in a maze of big grids of content, all alike”. I think plan to see much more interactivity, drawing a lot of inspiration from the gaming world.
Regarding data, I think the easiest mindset is to expect the media side of the tech industry to operate more and more as other tech companies do data, A/B testing, AI, etc..
Advice and Insight: Skills, Challenges, Leadership, and More!
What are the top 3 skills of a great Product Leader?
The top 3 skills of a Product Leader would be:
- SUPER strong communication skills: It’s on you to make sure everybody knows whats going on. This isn’t just about you sending a good update email but rather understanding what people need to see and when they need to see it, etc..
- Transparency: Building on the above, it’s not just enough to get the flow right, you have to be the arbiter of making sure the right level of information gets to the right people, and in many cases, this could involve sharing bad news (missed deadlines, underperforming products, etc..)
- Delegation abilities: While we all know in general PMs take on more work than they should, but as the leader of the team, if you get overwhelmed, the whole organization could fall with you. I try as much as possible to shift decision-making downstream so that I can train my team as much as possible and make sure they are well exposed to wide opportunities and not let the balls drop!
What do you think of Apple and Android’s new policy to push for using their system as payment modes (iOS already takes over 20% of revenues)?
I have very mixed thoughts about this. From one side I see the Store perspective: “Hey, we built this platform, and you get to make money off it, so give us a percentage of that”. On the other hand, we’ve reached the point where the market is so huge it’s hard to argue its in everyone’s’ best interest this way. I’d say it probably needs some percentage rethink, but overall I would probably not change too much.
I have my first joint interview with an Agency and potential Client this week. What should I focus on to make a good first impression?
Take as much time as you can to getting to know the industry as much as possible. I can’t tell you the number of instances where there is time-wasted and frustration caused by folks who show up with zero background.
If you know the general ins and outs and have some good examples of the kind of work the agency does, you should be in good shape. You’ve already got your foot in the door so you already belong. Now just go ace that interview and be familiar with any recent wins or fails by either party!
You also might be interested in The Ultimate List of Product Manager Interview Questions
What are the top key things a PM in a non-over-the-top (OTT) space needs to do in order to get started in the OTT space?
Understanding the difference in user behaviors around OTT apps. People deliberately use Netflix, HBO, and other services while doing something different, so we may get way higher metrics than other apps do. Similarly, people churn from these apps when they seek new content, and subscribe for temporary amounts of time. So, unlike many other fields, people use our apps for the content, not just the app experience. Getting really under the hood with this kind of thinking is huge.
What do you think makes you a great leader? What do you want to be better at?
What makes a person a great leader, is being a good listener and trusting their team. What I want to be better at is learning new tools. I’ve been trying to get good at things like Miro and Notion. I’d like to be a better student again!
What would you say is the fastest route into such a role? Taking a CS major?
I don’t think it deeply matters what you take, I have an Economics and Management double-major, but started as an Electrical Engineering and CS double! So don’t fret that too much, but, having a tech background is utterly invaluable. I don’t think you need to have a CS major, but it’ll be a very strong career setup if you do, especially if you end up not wanting to be a PM after all…
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What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced going remote over the past 6 months, and how are you changing your approach to Product Management in the new current/post COVID world?
I think the hardest thing is just coping with it all, this is the hardest time ever for many of us, especially those in North America. So give yourself credit for just staying sane!
I’d argue it COVID hasn’t impacted Product Management that much. Considering so much of my job is receiving or giving presentations, high-level strategy work, and running a team that was already partially remote. I’d argue much of the job of the PM hasn’t been as impacted as in other fields… but that’s just my experience!
What are the biggest challenges that you regularly face coordinating with your teams?
I think the biggest challenge for PMs in media is the balancing of a great product with hitting revenue targets and keeping the PMs on the right target of where we are trying to go. These are fundamentally at odds with each other if you have a PM who is too user-centric or too revenue-centric.
What typical roles and paths have you seen product managers transition to when they move out of product manager roles?
I’ve seen a lot of PMs end up in Marketing, Strategy, and Operations kind of roles and I’ve seen nothing but success. Candidly I think the PM role is so staggeringly difficult that it’s pretty likely to find success elsewhere with less pressure…
For more insights on Product Management, join us for our next #AskMeAnything session!