A couple weeks back, PAN Team Media sat down on a Friday afternoon to chat with Adweek tech policy reporter Trishla Ostwal. For her beat, Ostwal focuses primarily on big tech, reporting on privacy and security, antitrust, data protection and regulations.
The transcript below is edited and condensed for clarity.
Kate Adams, Senior Account Executive, PAN: To get started, can you give a brief introduction of yourself, your career so far, and what led you to Adweek?
Trishla Ostwal, Tech Policy, Adweek: Absolutely. First of all, I am thankful for being here. As you know, I’m Trishla Ostwal and I report on tech policy [for Adweek]. And people often are like, “What is that?” And I say, “I too am figuring it out as I’m reporting on it.”
What I usually tell people is my career has been somewhat of a full circle. I come from an ad agency background, where I would voraciously consume Adweek. So, to be a part of the industry to now reporting on it has been a really interesting journey. But I think with this beat — it’s really up and coming — I’ve come to understand that more than anything it’s the policy and regulations that define how the ad industry works. I cover stories concerning data privacy and how these apply to the inner workings of digital advertising ecosystem, plus competition law in several jurisdictions such as the U.S. and EU and the impact they have on the industry’s largest names such as Facebook, Amazon or Google.
PAN: That’s so interesting that you came from the ad industry yourself. What was that transition like?
Ostwal: It was really fun. When I say fun, it’s such a weird answer. What I mean is, when you’re in the industry, you understand the nitty-gritties of it. But when you go reporting — when you ask people questions and you report on it — it’s a completely different perspective because now you need to cater to the audience as opposed to being a part of the audience. But that kind of helps me because when I was working in the industry, I would always look for certain solutions or answers. [That perspective] helps me go about stories in that way, more like, “If I were a reader, what would I want to really read about?”
“When we talk about policy, we really talk about people.”
PAN: What else can you tell us about your beat? What’s particularly interesting to you? What are you passionate about outside of your beat that you sometimes still cover?
Well, I mean, it helps that I’m a policy nerd. Anything to do with law, and just the political aspect of [the industry] and how lawmakers and regulations go about it interests me. And this is quite an interesting time that we live in because judicial regulations, like in E.U and U.S really influence a majority of how social media works and thus our lives work.
Technology is now deeply entwined with policy. If you look at the concept of metaverse and even AI, it is really redefining human decision-making, but it also has the potential to act in ways that is very undesirable and unexplainable. So as important as technology is for economic well-being, “How do we avoid the pitfalls?’ is of concern as well.
This is something I learned recently from one of my interviews, that when we talk about policy, we really talk about people. And people are literally how brands and agencies run. It caters to the audience so this is something that interests me, and also because what I learned recently was that while the pandemic had pitfalls for different businesses, digital platforms is one section that really thrived because it kind of jived with it and got a lot of audience onto the platform considering everyone was going virtual
PAN: I love how you’re referencing your interviews. So, I feel like this is a good segue to the next question — what executives have stuck out to you the most in your interviews?
Ostwal: This is an interesting question. So, how executives really stand out for me is [in] how easy and manageable they can make the concepts. Something that I do end up asking a lot in my interviews is, “OK, can you break this down in layman’s terms?” And often how they answer really [speaks to] how the person is.
So, more than what my sources really do, what matters to me is how they go about explaining concepts to me. And that really helps me put everything together and make it digestible for the readers as well.
PAN: What do you think maybe your most influential story has been and what elements made it so successful? Anything that we can help with on the PR side to benefit your stories more?
Ostwal: So, as a reporter, I cannot comment on which stories of mine are influential. That’s not for me to say. But, I mean, like I said, a breaking down of concepts is something that I have worked around, and it really helped. Just seeing how things are turning around with privacy laws and the ad industry really investing in privacy-by-design ideas such as data-clean rooms. Also recently, I think yesterday, a story came out about how there could be a potential breakup in Google’s ad business. So, these are big things that are happening. Anything and everything to do with how the industry is going to change in the next six months to a year is what readers are interested in, what I as a reporter am looking at. These are some of the stories I’m working on as well — what really is the next big investment in terms of ad dollars for the industry.
“More than what my sources really do, what matters to me is how they go about explaining concepts.”
PAN: That’s awesome. I feel like everyone is just taking notes now hearing you give these insights, so thank you so much for that.
Ostwal: While I’m lowkey telling you, “Please pitch me these ideas.”
PAN: That being said, how do you like to be pitched? Do you have any advice for what gets your attention? Anything you want us to maybe stop doing?
Ostwal: What really catches my attention is pitching a journalist the news or the scoop or the the trend as opposed to the person. For example, “Would you be interested in talking to XYZ who is the CEO of so and so company with ten years of experience?” That’s not really going to help me in any way. What really matters is what this person is going to get to the table. So just turning that around — data clean rooms are a hot topic right now. So, this person can talk about how scalability is an issue, and they have solutions for it, or this is [how] they recommend marketers and advertisers go about sorting out their data mess. That’s it. That’s all it takes. Just tweaking around.
PAN: Anything maybe you would prefer us to not do in our pitches?
Ostwal: You guys are excellent at what you do. But this is something I do talk about with my colleagues, just how do we make [the] relationship with PR practitioners better? It’s equally important for us as well because you guys are our key sources.
“For the longest time everything has been virtual and it’s shifted the dynamics of how journalism has been happening for the last couple of years.”
What really does help is just responding — saying, “Yeah, maybe this is something we can help you with,” or, “Maybe we cannot.” As opposed to just leaving the journalist on read. Because what we tend to do is we make notes. I don’t know if you know this, but I’m just telling you a secret.
PAN: I know things have been super in flux the last couple of years. I’m just wondering what you’re hearing from your colleagues and your personal take on meeting again in person.
Ostwal: I’m actually kind of pushing for it. I really want to. For the longest time everything has been virtual and it’s kind of shifted the dynamics of how journalism has been happening for the last couple of years. Just before this conversation I was shooting out emails to PR practitioners like, “I’m going to meet execs in person? Can we do this?” I think a lot of people, a lot of reporters who I’ve been talking with are trying to change that as well.
PAN: Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with us, it was so incredibly helpful. And everyone, thank you so much for tuning in and listening to the conversation.
Ostwal: Thank you so much for having me, Kate, and the entire team for showing up on a Friday afternoon.