After years of shrinking budgets for training and cuts to personal development across the magazine and news media industries, there are signs that companies are making training and education of staff a priority again. Last month, The New York Times announced it had open-sourced its data skills course for reporters, and made it accessible to all.
US-based Hearst Magazines is among the vanguard investing in its people and providing opportunities for education and training. Recently, it launched Hearst Data University (HDU), a collection of courses and educational initiatives aimed at supporting its employees’ data fluency, in partnership with New Jersey Institute of Technology. The first Hearst Data University session launched April 28, 2019 and was taught by Dr. Jorge Fresneda Fernandez.
“There are several reasons why we decided to create Hearst Data University,” explained Sam Gladis, executive director of ad product marketing at Hearst Magazines, who worked closely with Michael Smith, Hearst’s chief data officer on HDU. “Data has become a priority for the magazine media industry. It is informing not just Hearst’s go-to market strategy and ad product offerings, but informing the company’s business in a much more significant and pervasive way than it has in the past,” she said.
“While the majority of our employees have a grasp on data and have been working with data for some time, we want to make sure we are supporting them and their success by creating tools that will continue to educate them on the topic,” she said. “It’s important that we have a resource that helps them understand how key components of data as both a concept and as a practice fits into our larger business.”
Courses are for employees at all levels, across departments at Hearst. They aim to give employees a consistent and comprehensive understanding of how data drives the magazine media business forward and how it can help drive Hearst’s client’s business forward through the product and capabilities that the company creates, she said.
The courses, which include data fundamentals, data privacy, data visualisation and identifying and creating and targeting audiences, took a year to come together. “The original concept was born out of consistent inquiries that we were getting as a leadership team, about different components of data,” Gladis said. “We worked with NJIT to develop the courses, to make sure that the way they’re structured is conducive to an educational environment.”
Course offerings are rolling, and are based upon what Gladis and her team are hearing and questions they’re fielding. She says she’s also working on identifying topics that are coming down the pipes to help inform the curriculum, and developing a new suite of additional courses to add to the line up.
Hearst Data University courses are taught at Hearst Tower by an NJIT instructor. Courses are approximately three hours each and qualify for IAB credit. “We worked with NJIT to help develop the courses, to make sure that the way they’re structured is conducive to an educational environment.”
These courses are limited in terms of attendance. Gladis said every course that has been offered so far has been completely booked. For example, there are over 100 employees, from executive assistants to publishers, registered for the data fundamentals course.
“We’re trying to keep every course to 20 people so that we can ensure interaction and engagement, so we can better ensure that folks feel like they’re in an environment where they can ask any question that they might have,” Gladis said. “The courses are 100 per cent voluntary. They’re open to everyone at every level from every discipline across the organisation.”
We’re really trying to make this information accessible, universal, and comprehensive, and then we’ll just continue to offer as many classes as we need to ensure that everyone who’s interested has a chance to participate.
Gladis anticipates Hearst Data University courses will be of interest to hundreds of employees, and is working on how to ensure that employees in Hearst’s global market and Hearst-owned companies can participate.
“I imagine we’ll be working on courses to do with augmented reality, artificial intelligence, using this as a framework to continue to provide expansive and comprehensive continuing knowledge, education, and support around the topics that are impacting our industry and our business,” Gladis said.
Investing in human capital in this way is of benefit for publishers. Making education and training a priority means employees walk away with new inspiration, new ideas and an improved skillset, which will only serve to move the business forward.
“I think it’s important that everyone in the company has reliable access to comprehensive, up-to-date information on topics that are directly impacting our industry and our business at any given time,” Gladis said.