'This Is The Year Where Voice Will Either Take Off Or Fizzle Before It Starts'

We sat down with Jo Wickremasinghe, Director of Product at News UK


Jo Wickremasinghe is Director of Product at News UK. Before this role, Jo led a number of digital product teams at Which?, Microsoft and the BBC where she was responsible for the launch of the 2011 Design Award nominated BBC Homepage and the market leading BBC Weather apps. During her time at Which? she launched a number of new digital businesses including Which? Trusted Traders and Money Compare. Born and raised in Australia, Jo started her career as an Aerospace Engineer, moving to the UK in 1998 to work for British Aerospace. The hype of the first dotcom bubble in 2000 enticed her into technology, and she’s never looked back.

Ahead of her presentation at the Chief Digital Officer Forum this April 27 - 28 in London, we sat down with Jo to talk all things digital. 

1. How did you get started in your career?

My first career was in Aerospace Engineering. I moved from Australia in 1998 to work for British Aerospace in Bristol. But aerospace engineering is not as exciting as it sounds and I was enticed into technology during the first dotcom book in the late 90’s. My first tech role was as a programme manager at Vodafone following by a couple of years working for UUNET which owned (at the time) the largest part of the internet backbone. I then took a role at Microsoft, where I stayed for 7 years moving from programme management into product marketing, then product management, and completing an MBA along the way. Microsoft is where I cut my digital product management teeth and it was a really exciting time to be there when MSN was a big player on the internet and seeing the birth of Facebook and Google during those days.

2. What, in your view, are the key digital trends to look out for in 2017?

With the uptake of the Amazon Echo over the last Christmas period and the imminent launch of Google Home in the UK I believe this is the year where Voice will either take off or fizzle before it starts. The challenge will be how easy it is for publishers and app developers to repurpose as much of their content as possible to the new platforms without a huge incremental cost, until engagement proves that Voice is more than a gimmick. For publishers the other constant angst is how much to play with off-network platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. The inequitable deal where publishers create the content and the social platforms make the lion's share of revenue off the back of it must start to shift if those platforms are serious about fighting against Fake News and support real journalism.

3. Are you personalising your customer engagement? If so how? If not, why not?

At the moment, we recognise that personalisation is an area where we are weak across both our titles and across our marketing channels. A big focus for us this year is on integrating our vast sources of data and insight about our customers with our marketing channels and the end to end user experience across our products, so we give our customers the most value and relevant content from our titles.

4. How do you maintain brand loyalty and meaningful engagement in the over-crowded digital space?

I am lucky to work for two of the strongest, if not the strongest, UK media brands. Our audience actively seeks us out across 3rd party platforms as well as engages with us directly through our websites and apps. To maintain that brand loyalty as we extend our brands into new areas is really about consistency of the experience and quality of the journalism.

5. Would you say that all new business ventures should be digital-first or even digital-only?

I would say mobile first, but I think some business with always need an offline component whether it's the human that drives your Uber, delivers your packages from Amazon or voices the morning weather update over your Google Home device.

6. What can the audience expect from your presentation at the Chief Digital Officer Forum?

An insight into the challenges of innovating within an established media business.

You can hear more from Jo, along with many other industry-leading digital executives, at the Chief Digital Officer Forum this April 27-28 in London. To see the full schedule, click here.


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