Rising Star: Mark Hannallah

Mark Hannallah sees the forest instead of the trees. It’s what makes him a successful product manager at USA TODAY Network. “For me, the ‘why’ is about the forest, and that’s the first step in which other things are built from,” Mark says. “We have to know why are we doing this thing, then once we know that, it’s how and what are the constraints — those are the trees. But it all backs up to the ‘why.’”

He credits his coworkers as his favorite part of the job, saying he’s surrounded with really great, smart people who solve challenging problems. “It’s an organizational effort,” he says. “Anything that made me look good was because of other people.”

To stay fresh, he recommends reading and doing things not related to work. “It provides perspective,” he says, noting that he reads fiction novels and business books to diversify his knowledge. “Media is an interesting industry to be working in at the moment,” he says. “I’m thinking about the future and what’s ahead, making and providing clarity where it doesn’t exist and formulating a strategy.”

In his role, he oversees design, development and deployment of web products to more than 25 newsrooms. He works with diverse stakeholder groups across brand, editorial, subscription, revenue, and technology teams.

“Before I stepped into the product management role, I wanted to [build up my] expertise,” he says, explaining that the teams usually consist of different specialties like design, development and product leader.

Mark started at Gannett in the user experience track. He wanted to focus on the paths users take to accomplish a goal and distill what’s most important to them. “I am a user-first product manager and I think that’s gone a long way,” he says.

He has always been interested in entrepreneurial pursuits, and considers his role as product leader to be someone with a vision that works with a team to build it together.

“We did a great job crafting a new gallery experience,” he says, praising his team for their work shifting the experience from a one-by-one horizontal carousel to a vertical scroll with a more natural flow. Not only does the new layout scroll deeper into the article experience, it allowed more flexible ad units to appear within the gallery.

He believes as the digital age progresses that we’ll see more experiences catered to specific groups of people.

“A lot of the content online is crafted for everyone. In the future, the experiences will be more unique based on who is viewing it,” he says. “I think publishers have a commitment to their users [to deliver] a valuable experience. That’s worth giving time and money toward.”

Kirsten is the Social Media and Blog Editor at the News Media Alliance.

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