The Interview: Jenny Connelly About the Revolution of Data in Media Publishing

Jenny Connelly, Senior Vice President of Product & Technology at Penske Media Corporation talks to DataArt about the effective management of different brands, the impact that digital transformation made on publishing platforms and the ways of creating engaging content.
4 min read
20/01/21
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The Interview: Jenny Connelly About the Revolution of Data in Media Publishing

How do you manage a media portfolio for such disparate brands?

Managing a portfolio is very different from managing a single product. So, we can see patterns, and that allows us to prioritize those features that we know all of the brands could benefit from. We have developed a system that we call “core tech” – this is a set of both front-end websites, wireframes, and designs that we have tested and optimized to know that they are revenue-positive, with back-end code that is the same for all our websites, because Penske grows through acquisition. When we acquire a new media company, it i's very cost-effective for us to migrate that new website onto our core tech platform without adding a lot of technology heads. I don't have to hire a lot of new engineers to support one additional brand.

How important is it for you as a leader to have women thrive in a media tech company?

Women in technology is a topic that is a true passion point for me. I have about 65 employees, and 25 of them are women. We have gone very upstream into the hiring and recruiting process. We have rewritten all our job descriptions to make women and diverse candidates feel included and welcome. We have one woman in every round of interviews, and the same group of people interview each candidate for any role and ask the same question, so that we are evaluating them objectively — from recruiting all the way through to mentoring. We are attracting the best women, and we also retain them; they want to stay. And I a’m really proud of the work that we have done with women in technology.

How are the digital transformations changing organizations?

So, we all read that print is dead, between five and ten years ago. Penske Media Corporation saw this coming and evolved to invest in the digital technology needed to publish online. So, we have invested in our core technology system, all our publishing platforms that the editors use to write their stories every day. We have brands that are print and digital, we have brands that are digital only, we have some brands that have mobile apps that people open every morning when they wake up. We have some that get delivered to their homes in print. We are very specific on the business strategy to assess brand by brand in terms of what works for that brand.

Digital transformation on the backend is completely changing business efficiency. How do we transform the world of media publishing in a way that still makes it satisfying for our reader? We do that via a lot of testing, we do that via interviewing readers and users. So, when my IT team migrates all our servers to the cloud, so that we can be faster, more nimble, more efficient, it makes a business run smarter.

How has technology innovated the media industry?

In the world of Covid, I would say subscriptions and data are two big areas of investment. We have a data warehouse that pulls in hundreds of data sources, which we can then analyze and drive both reports, and machine learning, and AI using vast data warehouse and data collection efforts that we have to make smarter decisions, but also to drive our technology through smarter algorithms.

What excites you about the next decade of media?

Right now, the entire media world is trying to figure out how do you create beautiful engaging meaningful content? How do you create that when you can't go out into the world? That is a short-term question that the media world is figuring out.

This revolution of data, artificial intelligence, machine learning. How do you blend the technology with the human? Because media is inherently human. People telling stories that people want to consume, so it's going to be this blend of pushing the envelope of data and intelligence, but in a way that stays human. Otherwise, nobody's going to want to watch that movie or listen to that podcast or read that article.

Conversations on the Cutting Edge is a series of interviews with technology leaders in Media & Entertainment. Our guests cover various cutting-edge trends and innovations across the digital media landscape, their influence on the current state of technology in media, and what's to come in the near future. Watch the full playlist on YouTube.

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