I’d love to introduce you to another very strong product manager, Camille Hearst.
Camille was a product manager on the iTunes team at Apple, and as you might imagine with such a disruptive and ground-breaking product, she experienced and learned a great deal during her formative product years at Apple, especially as she was there during the years moving from the iTunes original DRM-based music, to DRM-free, was critical in helping iTunes to become truly mass market.
Moving beyond early adopters into mass market involved many different efforts, some product, some marketing, and some a blend of the two.A good example of this blend was the relationship the iTunes team engaged with the American Idol program.
This turned out to be one of the most dramatic and visible – yet challenging product efforts for the iTunes team.
During 2008, American Idol was a cultural icon – watched by more than 25 million people twice a week, with a level of repeat engagement that was largely unrivaled.
Apple saw in this an opportunity to expose an ideal target market to the power of iTunes and digital music.Not just by selling the music from the contestants featured on the show, but by making iTunes an integral part of consumer’s life.
However, while the potential was substantial, the challenges were significant as well.
The VP of iTunes, Eddy Cue, and others made the business deal, but Camille worked as product manager on many of the integrations to help figure this out.
As just one example, the American Idol program is all about voting, and Apple quickly realized that sales of contestant’s music would very likely be strongly indicative of voting results, and while normally iTunes was designed to show trending music and highlight popular titles, in this case it was important to use extreme care to not influence the voting.
This was obviously critically important to the Idol producers – it would reduce or even eliminate the suspense to learn which contestants would continue to the next week.
The integration also allowed the team to target a very specific persona, and work to drive up engagement with this group.One of the keys was to make it easy to get to iTunes for those that didn’t yet have the app installed.
By tackling these and countless other challenges head on, Camille and her team were able to come up with technology solutions that complemented the American Idol experience, yet also injected iTunes as a key component of fan’s life.This contributed to what was in 2014, before the move to streaming, a roughly $20 billion business.
To me this is a great example of how great product managers work to find creative solutions to very difficult problems.
Camille went on to join the YouTube team, and then lead product at London-based Hailo, and now I’m very happy to say that she’s the new CEO of NYC-based startup, Kit.