Brian Fung

Tech reporter for The Washington Post

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON February 26, 2016

Discussion

Brian Fung@b_fung · Tech Reporter, The Washington Post
Hey, gang! I’m Brian Fung. I cover Internet access, the future of television, next-gen automotive tech and other fun subjects for The Washington Post. Whether it’s explaining net neutrality or deciphering how driverless cars will affect your insurance, helping folks understand what’s going on around them is what gets me out of bed in the morning. As D.C. native, it’s a blast to be working for my hometown paper. I’m also into camping and backpacking, whipping up something nice in the kitchen, story-driven video games and strong whiskey. Looking forward to learning something new from you all today! EDIT: Thanks so much for making this such a hit! I had a great time hanging out with you guys today. Remember, you can ask more questions of me on Twitter at @b_fung — or follow me on Facebook. See you around the interwebs.
Nik Sharma@mrsharma · Director of Performance Marketing, hint
Hi Brian, thanks for the time! Here's my question: As a reporter, you're the one getting the paycheck from the advertisers on the site at the end of the day. How have you seen ad-blocking affect the paper (if not you specifically), and how do you see a premium publisher like the Washington Post combating that issue? And, do you see ad-blocking as a viable threat to internet publishers in the next 6 to 12 months? Thanks, again!
Brian Fung@b_fung · Tech Reporter, The Washington Post
@mrsharma You know, it's interesting. I actually don't have much visibility into the business side of things, but I do know that we've been experimenting with various nudges aimed at encouraging people to turn off their ad-blockers or to subscribe. We'll serve you little interstitials, for instance, telling you that you have an ad-blocker turned on and won't you please turn it off to continue? My impression is that this approach can work for readers who are open-minded about the value of the journalism they're getting.
Nik Sharma@mrsharma · Director of Performance Marketing, hint
@b_fung Interesting. We are releasing a product similar to that shortly where it gives users with an ad-blocker a message to turn it off, or shows them one ad before they enter the site experience. Thanks for the insights!
Lejla Bajgoric@lejlahunts · Intern, Product Hunt
Hi Brian! What's your approach or goal when you decide to cover something? How do you know you've done a successful job?
Brian Fung@b_fung · Tech Reporter, The Washington Post
@lejlahunts What I really love to do is help connect what might seem like completely unrelated ideas. Drawing lines between dots. Illustrating the relationships between industries, people and concepts. I feel the best about my work when I stumble on a thought that makes me see the world in a different light. I know I've settled on a great idea when I get a "whoa, my mind just exploded" kind of feeling. EDIT: Words are hard.
Do you think that "activist culture" among college students will affect the direction of technology growth?
Brian Fung@b_fung · Tech Reporter, The Washington Post
@vicgior I think college students have always been activists. So in some respects, technology growth has already been affected by activist culture!
Marta Antonelli@antonelli039 · Co-Founder, Upicnic
Do you find a majority of topics & companies to write about from your own research (and if so, what are the places you go looking for ideas?), or would you say PR companies also play a big role in what gets reviewed and published? Also, a love of food & camping is what got us started, so high five!
Brian Fung@b_fung · Tech Reporter, The Washington Post
@antonelli039 Woooo nature! Where do you go to get outside? I tend to avoid PR companies since I know they're also reaching out to journalists about the same things. The best ideas come from lunches and coffees with people I trust, as well as reading what others are writing about and thinking of ways to connect that to what else I know.
Marta Antonelli@antonelli039 · Co-Founder, Upicnic
@b_fung is "all NYC parks" too broad an answer? For camping we obviously have to venture outside the city (mostly Adirondacks, though we're constantly day-dreaming of the Appalachian trail), but I am very, very anti-snow, so winters are tough. What about you? Lunches and coffees with friends rule - feel free to ping me next time you're in the city, I'll cook up something nice for ya :)
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
Who are the top names you follow on Twitter as part of your tech coverage for the Washington Post?
Brian Fung@b_fung · Tech Reporter, The Washington Post
@tomstocklein This is a great question. I follow almost 2,000 people — among them, some of my favorites include @AlexJamesFitz, @mathewi and @mims. They're consistently funny, thoughtful and have original ideas.
Daniel Kuster@dabeku · Indie game developer
How do you decide which topics to cover?
Brian Fung@b_fung · Tech Reporter, The Washington Post
@dabeku This is actually a really complex question disguised inside a straightforward one. My beat mostly has to do with Internet access and the policies surrounding it. As more devices become connected, that beat is expanding. What I aim to do is take really complicated subjects and make them understandable to folks who don't have the time or expertise to know why, for example, the 600 MHz broadcast incentive auction could set the tone for our whole wireless future. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/n...)
Hi Brian -- What's the most common misconception average people have about the technology in their lives? What should every person know but likely does not know?
Brian Fung@b_fung · Tech Reporter, The Washington Post
@rkellett I've avoided answering this until now because it's such a hard question. I think the answer here is that most people avoid thinking about how their technology really WORKS. In most cases, this is perfectly reasonable. You shouldn't have to think about the DNS system in order to use Gmail. Everything should just function. If we spent all our time mucking about in the innards of technology, we'd never get around to actually using it to improve our lives. But sometimes, understanding just how the technology functions sheds important light on why companies, governments and all the actors in between do what they do. That's why I'm here — to explain all that.
@b_fung Thanks for answering!
claudio meloni@claudiomeloni
In reference to the Anti Terrorism Act, do you think that Apple could be suede for supporting terrorism by S.Bernardino victims' families?
Brian Fung@b_fung · Tech Reporter, The Washington Post
@claudiomeloni Not sure if trolling or serious, BUT — I think Apple's fate on that count will be powerfully shaped by what happens in Washington and with the FBI. If Apple ultimately comes out on top, that will send a powerful signal that any lawsuit along the lines you described would have low odds. If the Justice Department gets its way, then … maybe? I honestly don't know.
Marius Chawa@marius_chawa · Analyst, Hewlett Packard Enterprise
should you approach a writer about your product that's in beta? or wait until you are about to launch
Brian Fung@b_fung · Tech Reporter, The Washington Post
@marius_chawa Well, in general, I see nothing wrong about approaching a reporter about a beta product. Even products that are in alpha, or pre-alpha! It doesn't matter how early the idea is — if it has the potential to change the world, reporters will be interested. That said — I'm not a products reporter. I cover policy. So if you approach me, I generally won't be in a position to write a review! But I love new ideas.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
What are your top 3 tips for founders who are trying to pitch their story to a journalist?
Brian Fung@b_fung · Tech Reporter, The Washington Post
@ems_hodge 1. Keep it short. 2. Emails are better than phone calls. 3. If we don't reply… sorry, but we're not interested. Maybe next time!
Danny Lowney@dannylowney · Growth ⛏@ Sup
Sup Brian! Thanks for doing this :) What is the least interesting trend you see emerging in tech today?
Brian Fung@b_fung · Tech Reporter, The Washington Post
@dannylowney I struggle with this, actually. My whole job is about looking for the most interesting, the most novel, the most change-the-world stuff, so it's a great exercise to reflect on what ISN'T that. I think the Internet of Things is going to be vitally important. Connected cars, fridges, all that stuff. But there's also a subset of IoT mania that's just… kind of overboard. There's a lot of experimentation in products that people probably won't need or won't want. That's fine as far as it goes, but IoT burnout is a very real possibility.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
Whats the most interesting emerging market you think right now?
Brian Fung@b_fung · Tech Reporter, The Washington Post
@bentossell I used to cover foreign policy, so bear with me as nerd out about this. For a while, everyone was talking about BRICs – Brazil, Russia, India and China. Then it was ICs — India and China. Then, everyone forgot about India as the 2008 Olympics drew near and China seemed like it was going to take over the world. These days, attention is shifting back to India. Especially in tech. The telecom regulator there just made a landmark ruling on Facebook's zero-rating program, one that will set a precedent for other countries and affect millions of people. Tech companies are increasingly looking to India to test their products and services. Why did people kind of move on from China? My theory, which I admit is mostly anecdotal, has to do with China's reputation for requiring tech companies to make certain compromises in order to operate there. I think that deters a lot of companies, despite the huge market potential there.
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · PMM @Twitter // Previously @ProductHunt
If you could name a beer after you, what would you call it? I asked @jason this, but @eriktorenberg didn't ask in the Blab. So now you're up. Pressure's on!
Brian Fung@b_fung · Tech Reporter, The Washington Post
@andrewmettinger @jason @eriktorenberg Easy. "Brain Fungus."
Brandon Chen@brandon_chen · Malware Analyst, The Media Trust
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · PMM @Twitter // Previously @ProductHunt
@b_fung @jason @eriktorenberg I'd try a 6-pack
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
In your opinion, what's Jeff Bezos's long-term strategy for the WashPost?
Brian Fung@b_fung · Tech Reporter, The Washington Post
@tomstocklein In the few times he's visited the Post, he's been very intent on making ours a national brand. For a long time, we were focused on writing about Washington, for Washingtonians. But now we're growing in some really important ways. For instance, we've now surpassed the New York Times in terms of digital readership, and we're on track to exceed some other major names you've heard of, too. Everything we're doing is faster and more experimental. That's not just the result of the Bezos purchase, but something that even predated his buying the company.
Hash_tag_jeff@jeffumbro · Book Marketing and PR - get in touch
Do you like being pitched for books written by tech CEOs and executives?
Brian Fung@b_fung · Tech Reporter, The Washington Post
@jeffumbro To be honest, I try to avoid reading about work-related topics when I'm not at work. I sometimes think that makes me a worse reporter, but I also think it's important to cut things off and experience other things outside of work. Every few months, I try to make it a point to go on a camping trip somewhere to clear my head.
Hash_tag_jeff@jeffumbro · Book Marketing and PR - get in touch
@b_fung but if you're writing an article on Tesla, would you want to have read Ashlee Vance's Elon Musk? I totally agree about staying out of your field in your free time, but I'm looking at this more for sources and the like.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
What is the most surprising story you've written for the Washington Post?
Jay Furr@jayfurr · Jay Furr, Otter Lodge
@ems_hodge I'm going to guess that'd be the time that Steve Ballmer started faxing naked photos directly to the Post and Brian had to comment on their artistic merit.
Brian Fung@b_fung · Tech Reporter, The Washington Post
@ems_hodge Maybe this one, which just went up? https://www.washingtonpost.com/n...
Jay Furr@jayfurr · Jay Furr, Otter Lodge
@b_fung @ems_hodge Naked photos.
Gene Park@gene_park
ELI5: Is the Apple v. FBI case more about fears of setting a judicial precedence?
Brian Fung@b_fung · Tech Reporter, The Washington Post
@gene_park I wouldn't say "more about" than anything. It really is about setting a precedent.
Brandon Chen@brandon_chen · Malware Analyst, The Media Trust
Have you played The Division beta and if so, what are your thoughts?
Brian Fung@b_fung · Tech Reporter, The Washington Post
@brandon_chen This game is going to be AWESOME. I'm a pretty big fan of the Tom Clancy universe, having read many of his books and played most of the video games dating allllll the way back to Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear. For those of you not familiar, The Division tells the story of a sleeper agent (that's you) who's charged with helping New York recover from a massive biological attack that disrupts the entire city. It's an RPG but blended with a third-person shooter and it's incredibly detailed. Check it out — and if you hop on and play on PC, shoot me a note. My email address is brian.fung@washpost.com.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
What's your favourite whiskey?
Brian Fung@b_fung · Tech Reporter, The Washington Post
@ems_hodge I'm partial to Knob Creek, though as that's gotten more popular I've been branching out to other things as well.
Brandon Chen@brandon_chen · Malware Analyst, The Media Trust
@b_fung @ems_hodge Knob Creek Smoked Maple is a fun one. Park Lane Tavern in Clarendon has an awesome selection of bourbons/whiskeys/scotches to try. I may have partied too hard there once.
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · PMM @Twitter // Previously @ProductHunt
@b_fung @ems_hodge How do you drink it?
Brian Fung@b_fung · Tech Reporter, The Washington Post