Jennifer Nycz-Conner on How Technology Is Transforming Journalism

Jennifer Nycz-Conner is an editor at the Washington Business Journal, where she serves as the business anchor on WTOP and she runs the Working the Room column. She has seen how digital media from blogs to today’s newer technologies like Meerkat and Periscope have changed journalism.

The following is an interview conducted with Jen on behalf of xPotomac that focuses on how digital has and continues to change journalism. You can see Jen speak at xPotomac with Jodi Gersh on August 27th in Georgetown (register today using the code “Geoff” and get 20% off). Any typos or errors are mine, not hers.

GL: Where have we come in the past decade with digital?

JNC: It’s light years. I have been at the Business Journal for 10 years, which is strange because that’s a really long time in journalism. It has been interesting, as we have had front row seats for this evolution.

I have seen [the paper] move away from a weekly, where we focused on publishing once a week. We threw that out the door. Stories are no longer held for print. We publish [stories] as soon as we have them. We changed our approach to our weekly print edition so it is more of a wrap-up with a deeper analysis rather than breaking the news. So that for us is one of the big changes.

GL: How do you like being on the radio instead of print?

JNC: Radio offers an immediate reaction so that part is really fun. I’ve always been passionate about radio, but I have come to develop a great respect and appreciation for it that I didn’t have before doing it every day.

Part of that respect is people invite you into their lives; it’s very much a one-to-one medium where print is one to a whole lot of people. You are sitting next to people in traffic. For people to listen to you not only do they have to appreciate what you are saying, but they also have to want to spend time with you and like you.

The writing style is very different. Brevity is very important. You learn that 30 seconds is actually a very long time, and I never thought that before.

You give a lot of thought about what you are putting into that 30 seconds. There is not a lot of fat to work with on that. You really have to cut it down as quickly as you can, and give people what they need to know right now. They have to care about what you are saying. It has to mean something.

Jen Nycz Conner Interview

GL: Do you feel that’s true across media today, particularly the way social media is working?

JNC: Yeah, there is so much noise, and you can find your news anywhere now. When you look at the traditional broadcast news that we grew up with you waited for Peter Jennings or Tom Brokaw to tell you what was going on. You don’t have that anymore.

What you still have are trusted voices. If you are still getting news you want to get it from someone you know and trust.

GL: Jennifer Nycz-Conner [laughs].

JNC: Let’s hope so, seriously, I think about that sometimes. That is part of the job and the occupation and the mission of a journalist to be that trusted voice. They are going to tell you the most accurate, insightful truthful version you can find.

The other part is the “what does it mean to me” part? We all have tons of noise, and we can find any fact any time of the day. What you can’t find is meaning. What is the analysis, and how does it affect me and my family, and where I live? For us as business leaders, what does that mean? Part of our job is to translate that.

GL: You are [very involved] in video, and we are seeing big changes including livestreaming taking off. What are you seeing happen with video? What is your perspective as a journalist?

JNC: It is a crazy time. I’ve been working on our video for three or four years. What we have learned, there is an incredible appetite for video now. We all have screens with us at the time.

If you think back 20 years ago, that’s crazy to even think about. I started out in live television production. I used to have to get 53-foot tractor-trailers to do the stuff you can do today on your cell phone. It’s crazy!

People will watch video if it is the right medium for what they want to see. You can’t take what you wrote for the paper and put it in a video. You can’t just recreate the standard news form. They want it short, they want it insightful, and they want the pay-off: “What does it mean to me?” If I am going to invest my eyes and ears and give you two minutes of my time, I need some sort of pay-off for it.

Jen Nycz Conner Interview Laughing

GL: How do you stay relevant with everything and the way the media seems continuously evolve?

JNC: That’s assuming I am relevant. It’s an upward climb. A benefit for journalists and technology is curiosity. Journalists by their very nature are curious, we don’t go into this business if we are not. That curiosity translates to technology.

You want to try out new things. You want to test new things. You want to experiment and find new ways to tell a story. In a way, that makes us pretty good technologists.

It is hard to stay relevant. Time management is challenging. It used to be reporters went out, took a notebook and pen, and wrote a story, and had a deadline, and had deadline at 5 o’clock that night.

Now you are filing a story on your cell phone half the time. You are also shooting video, recording audio, taking pictures, tweeting while you are reporting the story, then writing the story, then writing the wrap-up of that story. Journalists have to do a whole lot more. It’s a constant decision making process about what’s the best use of my time. How will this best serve my audience?

GL: How do you feel about getting pitched through social media, Twitter, Facebook…?

JNC: It is hard. The only benefit of the tweet pitch is that it is short. You know their not going to bother with the 18-paragraph introduction before they get to the point.

What drives me crazy is the more of the ping-pong game that a lot of PR people play. They will send you an email, then they will call you and say, “Hi, I am calling to see if you received my email.”

[And] what does drive me crazy is when people don’t know what we cover. That hasn’t changed with technology. We get really consumer oriented pitches or pitches that don’t have anything to do with anything we cover. You got to know the publication, especially today when you can go online, Google it, spend five minutes and get a pretty good idea of what we are doing.

I don’t mind connecting in different ways. I was on Twitter pretty early, 2009, and that was a great way to connect with people and get some really good stories that way.

See Jen speak at xPotomac with Jodi Gersh on August 27th!

xPotomac Returns on June 12

My DC friends will be happy to know that Patrick Ashamalla, Shonali Burke and I have been very busy over the past few months. We can finally announce xPotomac 15 this June 12.

Our keynote this year is author Mark W. Schaefer, who just released The Content Code, which highlights how the marketing world has gone mad.  In his new book, Mark challenges communicators to break through information density by thinking about audiences in a new way

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This year’s xPotomac returns to the Georgetown University Campus, but will be held at the Healey Family Student Center, which includes an in-building parking garage. Special thanks to our event host and sponsor the Communications Culture and Technology programShana Glickfield, cofounder of the Beekeeper Group, will again emcee xPotomac.

The remaining three sessions and their speakers have been selected:

It’s a data driven world, but you still need creative free thinking to succeed. Senior Vice President for Social@Ogilvy Kathy Baird will discuss some lessons she learned at the Burning Man festival as they apply to digital communications.

Next up, Gannett’s Director of Social Media and Engagement Jodi Gersh and Assistant Managing Editor, Video for the Washington Business Journal Jen Nycz-Conner will discuss how digital media continues to impact the way news is developed and shared.

The first millennials are now 35 years old and taking over executive leadership positions. How does the new digital-savvy leadership impact workplace culture. DC-based authors Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant will discuss the concepts discussed in their new book, When Millennials Take Over.

After our lunch break, crisis communications expert and Commcore Consulting Founder Andy Gilman will join xPotomac cofounders Shonali Burke and Geoff Livingston for a digital crisis communications bootcamp.  Help resolve a digital crisis live! For those that don’t know Andy, he has counseled clients for 60 Minutes appearances, Congressional hearings, and most notably provided counsel to Johnson & Johnson during the Tylenol 1 crisis and the Government of Canada for the SARS Outbreak.

Register today for xPotomac 15 today! A version of this post also ran on the xPotomac site.

From the Internet of Things to Video Moxy

I have the great privilege of hosting the xPotomac Conference every year with Patrick Ashamalla and Shonali Burke. We just published video recordings of our 2014 sessions, including our keynotes, on YouTube. You can see the whole channel here.

Here are each of the sessions:

KEYNOTE: Robert Scoble on The Age of Context



Find out more about Robert Scoble at facebook.com/RobertScoble.

Lauren Vargas, Digital Media in a Regulated Environment


Find out more about Lauren at rootreport.com/about/.

Toby Bloomberg, Broadcast and Print Media Adoption of Digital

Learn more about Toby here: about.me/TobyBloomberg.

Peter Corbett, The Internet of Things

Find out more about Peter at istrategylabs.com.

Danielle Brigida and Allyson Kapin, Disrupting Social Change

Find out more about Danielle at https://twitter.com/starfocus and Allyson at womenwhotech.com.

KEYNOTE: Jim Long, The Wild World of Video


Learn more about Jim at vergenewmedia.com.

The #xPotomac14 Compendium

xPotomac 2014 or #xPotomac14 was held last Friday at Georgetown University’s Copley Formal Lounge. Speakers include keynotes Robert Scoble, Jim Long, and session leaders Lauren Vargas, Toby Bloomberg, Peter Corbett, and Allyson Kapin and Danielle Brigida.

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Early reviews show a successful event. Mike Schaeffer wrote, “The 2014 edition [of xPotomac] brought it strong, with an array of presenters, that all told one major story: Success in communications and technology will be predominantly based on strategically taking advantage of opportunities in front of you.”

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Monica added, “What I found interesting was the fact that none of the speakers used extemporaneous PowerPoints. Instead, they used handhelds with colorful mind maps to remind them where they were in their talk (kudos to Kathryn Garrett for first pointing this out via Twitter). The result was more eye contact and audience interaction than you typically get when speakers are stuck in a pre-personal computer = overhead transparencies paradigm.”

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As you can see, people tweeted about the content throughout the conference. And tweet they did. xPotomac trended for 35 minutes on Friday making it the 68th most popular topic in the country that day, according to Trendinalia United States.

xPotomac14 Word Cloud

Official xPotomac influence partner Zoomph tallied more than 3100 tweets and Instagram updates with a reach of more than 20 million people were posted last week and through the weekend. Not bad for 100 people coming together for a few conversations. The above Zoomph word cloud shows the 50 most referenced words in all those tweets.

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Who was the greatest influencer of them all? Tinu Abayomi-Paul rocked her smartphone and took the prize, says Zoomph.

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Most folks said they had a lot of fun (including emcee Shana Glickfield, who photo bombed me), and enjoyed the conference more than last year’s. Further, it seems we’ve transcended the increasinly distant BlogPotomac series that served as a foundation for the current xPotomac.

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Co-founders Patrick Ashamalla (above), Shonali Burke and myself will bring xPotomac back next year at the Copley Formal Lounge thanks to our relationshiop with Georgetown’s Communications, Culture and Technology program. Look for more great speakers like Robert, Jim, Danielle and Allyson (pictured below), Toby, Peter and Lauren. In the interim, you can see all my photos from the event here. And we will roll out videos of the individual speaker sessions over the next month or so.

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Thank you to everyone — attendee, sponsor and of course, our speakers — who made xPotomac happen. What did you think of #xPotomac14?

P.S. Since publishing, Brian Conlin published his “Six Brain-Bending Ideas from xPotomac 2014” on the Vocus blog. Check it out.

#xPotomac14: Israel and Corbett Take on the Internet of Things

iStrategyLabs and DC Tech Titan Peter Corbett is presenting at xPotomac this February 28th with a discussion on The Internet of Things.  Shel Israel‘s co author Robert Scoble is keynoting about their book Age of Context (Shel was coming but had a family emergency). Peter and Shel took some time to answer some of my questions about how Internet enabled devices are changing marketing and media

Don’t miss the opportunity to interact with Peter and Robert, and some of the technology industry’s best minds live, including Age of Context Authors Robert Scoble and Shel Israel. Register today, and use the code Geoff for 20% off!

GL: You are doing some great work with the Internet of Things, or sensors. Why is it so important for marketers to consider the use of this kind of data in their work with customers?

PC: A funny thing is happening. People are more interested in connecting with the real world than they are with the digital one – and the physical world is no being infused with technology in ways we’ve never seen. With that in mind, marketers – who’s job it is to connect meaningfully with customers – are being drawn into Internet of Things related campaigns because is simply what people want to interact with.

If you’re a marketer and you’re not at least familiar with the space, you’re at a dramatic disadvantage. If you’re an agency who can build internet connected devices you’re probably so business your just can’t keep up.

SI: Sensors are becoming ubiquitous, and with the release of Beacon Low Energy Blue-tooth, they will soon be installed every few yards of many stores. They will talk to shopper’s iPhones as they walk by. This will allow retailers to know who is in the store, that person’s buying history, the route they are taking through the store and for loyal, repeat customers, probably sensors will allow the store to under stand the shopper’s intent.

This changes a great deal for marketers. Marketers will be able to make offers that are highly personalized to each shopper, and not bother other people in the location who have different intents. The data will also allow retailers to position items on display with much great effectiveness. What, I am thrilled to say, will disappear is the need for marketers to try to push crap to every person that comes within range.

Robert Scoble and I have a name for this new, extremely precise approach. We call it Pinpoint Marketing.

GL: How far do you think we can take the Internet of Things?

SI: How far it is taken Geoff is beyond the control of you and me at this point. Sensors are growing exponentially, they are getting smaller and less expensive. Retail applications that I just mention are just one world-changing applications.

Sensors on Pills, will allow doctors to see what’s going inside our bodies with out intrusive procedures that we now must abide. I for one will not miss the joy of a colonoscopy. Sensors will be attached to traffic lights and talk to sports stadiums, so that the lights will be recalibrated when a big event gets out.

In Orlando, there are sensors in smart parking lots. They can tell motorists where spaces are open, so that they won’t be driving around and polluting. You ay for the space on a mobile app where your credit card is on file. If you don’t pay, you’ll get an automatic fine. I could write a book about the different ways sensors will change work and life. In fact, just did.

PC: I don’t really see a limit. Our world will be very different 10 years from now. In 50 it may be unrecognizable. It’s not clear if this is a good thing or a bad thing yet – humans will have relationships with objects unlike we ever have before. Would you rather have a girlfriend or your iPhone? Some people would already choose the iPhone.

GL: What’s the utimate application you have seen so far?

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SI: Every time there is an ultimate application, there is one that is even more ultimate that pops up before I get a chance to write about it. We are in a period of rapid innovation and disruption. There is abundant competition that is fomenting fast and faster change. Today some people may be made uncomfortable by digital eyewear such as Google Glass.

In a few years, that digital eyewear may be a piece of nanotechnology inserted into the optical nerve where it will communicate directly with the brain. Robert Scoble and I have seen augmented reality binoculars, that allow you to see precisely what’s around you–except that a sign, a map, pr a person is inserted into the scenario that is not really there.

In the play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe,” Martha tells her husband, “Truth and Illusion, George, you don’t know the difference.”

Soon that may be the case for the rest of us as well. Holographic technologies, eye control technologies and nanotechnologies are going to eliminate screens for viewing entertainment, the web or anything else. Simulaneously windshields,and closet mirrors are become screens for data and entertainment.

PC: You mean besides our GE Social Fridge? I have to say Points is a big deal. Or August. Both of those products should be big successes from what I can tell. Homegrown hero SmartThings in DC is way out ahead with regard to platform development for home automation. I think they’re going to kill.

GL: Is social media an established and at the same time tired practice now?

PC: Absolutely. Social media is a boring commodity. It’s easy. Hardware engineering isn’t. Physical + digital interaction that excites and delights people is much more difficult to design for than a simple click on a social app. The bar has be raise really high with this one, and the social shops are going to get eaten alive people people that can span digital and physical.

SI:Social media is now a mature platform. No surviving company has a go-forward strategy that does not include social media. In less than a decade, it has moved from a disruptive intrusion to a core component of life and work. There is nothing tired about the technology. What got tiring is talking about social media. Now we just use it.

Businesses have come to understand that it is not just about push, but is an amazing place for gathering real time sentiment and data. The traditional media that has survive the tumolt of the last year, now see the people of the world as sources of credible news and the platforms as faster, better, cheaper ways to distribute it. I only wish the slow-moving institutions, particularly government and education would embrace the social media more strategically.

GL: If you could coach today’s students on one area to focus on, what would it be?

PC: I’d encourage them to focus on product design – digital and physical product design. There’s so much work to be done, and not enough talent. I was a programmer/designer who went to business school and studied marketing and management. I wish I had studied mechanical engineering or industrial design. Those are such important worlds to grok.

SI: I would counsel them not to focus on any one area unless they have to. I’d also advise them to learn to program, and that they will most likely learn far more on devices than they will in classrooms–despite what their teachers may tell them.

GL: What’s next for iStrategyLabs?

PC: We’re building a new product – it’s a real-time analytics platform for employees. We want to see if we can help teams be happier and more productive. That’s a very much digital product (and iOS app). At that same time we’re working on more physical internet connected device prototypes for internal purposes and for our clients. We hope the we discover a blockbuster internet connected device we can build 1000s of over the next couple years.

GL: What’s next for Shel Israel?

SI: I’m researching a book with Shel Holtz on how technology is giving more people and business in more places a better shot at economic viability. You’ve heard about lots of slivers of this new, open economy: shared, sharing collaborative, consumptive, mesh, ad nauseum.

Shel and I want to show how it is all part of a new global economy, one that is enabled by the technologies that are forming the Age of Context, an economy where the government plays a reduced role even on recognizing and defining currency, and designers with new ideas can print products on home devices.

Don’t forget.  Register today for this Friday’s xPotomac conference, and use the code Geoff for 20% off!

#xPotomac14 to Feature Robert Scoble, Shel Israel & Others

xPotomac is coming back this February 28, 2014! Our opening keynotes this year are Robert Scoble and Shel Israel, who will discuss The Age of Context, and how the world of media is being dramatically impacted by social media, data, mobile and sensors (see Geoff Livingston’s interview with Robert for an in-depth look at this issue).

Tickets are on sale now. If you register by December 31, receive an rely bird 30% discount using this code, EARLYBIRD. Contact Geoff Livingston (geoff @ tenacity5.com) directly to discuss sponsorship.

I have been organizing this conference and its predecessor BlogPotomac since 2008, so it’s pretty cool to see it coming back. In its current iteration, I have help from xPotomac Patrick Ashamalla and Shonali Burke (thank you for joining me on this crazy adventure!).

Before I unveil our closing keynote and additional sessions, here’s what’s new about xPotomac 2014:

  • The day has changed from Monday to Friday, providing an easier escape for media and marketing wonks who want to attend.
  • Six sessions instead of eight, with an anticipated 3:30 exit. The intensity of the sessions makes eight a bit long, in our opinion. Plus, we want to enjoy everyone’s company at happy hour afterwards.
  • The location will change from the Source Theatre. Though a great venue, the room got a little hot. We are in negotiations for a new venue, and expect an announcement shortly.
  • We will be keeping the gladiator style format (see videos from last year’s event), which people really seem to love. It offers more conversations and interaction with speakers.

    Additional Speakers

    Our closing keynote for xPotomac is Jim Long, a.k.a New Media Jim. Jim will lead a session on the rapidly changing world of video, and its implications for social networks and content creators. Currently, Jim is the Washington bureau videographer for NBC News.

    Cox Digital Media Director of Social Media Integration and blogging pioneer Toby Bloomberg will join us from Atlanta. Toby will discuss her insights and perhaps an adventure or two based her work with over 70 TV, radio and newspapers properties in using social media as a catalyst to build stronger brand-to-audience relationships.

    Nonprofit marketers Danielle Brigida, National Wildlife Federation, and Allyson Kapin, RAD Campaign will add insights into the nonprofit sector’s struggles with new media. They will engage in a conversation about what is working, what hasn’t worked, and why.

    Our final two sessions focus on corporate adoption of advanced media and the native advertising debates. These speakers will be announced in January.

    This post was originally featured on the xPotomac site.