Thursday, February 8

Learn About Free Streaming Music

Pandora.com has many stories to tell. There is the story of a how the music website was developed, and of how it brings new music to its listeners. There is the story of how word-of-mouth marketing can work in the new age of the Internet, and there is the story of how an entrepreneur followed his passion to find success.

Pandora is a website devoted to bringing music, new and old, familiar and unfamiliar, to as wide an audience as possible. It is not a site for downloading music. It is instead, a “music discovery service,” that becomes a personalized radio station playing exactly the music each of its over 5 million subscribers wants to hear.

Tim Westergren, 40, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Stanford, where he studied computer acoustics and recording technology, is the founder of the Oakland, California, based start-up. He says that he never intended to start a company. “It was a long way from my consciousness.” But his passion for music — performing, composing, and most of all discovering new artists, eventually led him to become a dot-com entrepreneur.

Westergren appears in Princeton on Thursday, February 8, at 7 p.m. at the Garden Theater on Nassau Street to hold a “Town Hall Meeting” on music and “all things Pandora.” The meeting is free and open to everyone.

The meeting, like the Pandora website, is being advertised strictly through word-of-mouth. E-mail invitations were sent to subscribers in nearby zip codes. The idea for the meetings came from Westergren’s desire to get out and meet the people who listen to Pandora. When he discussed it with his staff, they suggested he hold a “meet up.” Westergren was unfamiliar with the term at the time, but has since learned that it is “a spontaneous online gathering. An E-mail is sent out saying you will be at a certain place at a certain time and you see who shows up.”

The first event was held several months ago in Texas. Three people attended. Westergren wasn’t discouraged. He continued to schedule meet ups and “they grew and grew until a few months later we had 300 people come to the one in New York City.”

Westergren’s meet ups have followed the same type of growth as his website. The site opened about 18 months ago and has grown from a handful of subscribers to 5 million.

Developing the idea. Open to visitors just since 2005, Pandora has been in the works for quite a while. The company evolved from a project Westergren started seven years ago, called the Music Genome Project, but in reality, it has been evolving throughout Westergren’s adult life. After college he became an independent musician, “living out of a van, traveling around the country, and discovering great local music everywhere I went.” This experience led him to work as a film composer.

“When I would start to work with a film director I would sit down with him and play song after song, discovering exactly what the director liked and disliked.” That in turn led Westergren to think about how songs were related and to found the Music Genome Project, which he terms “the most comprehensive analysis of music ever undertaken.”

A team of 50 music analysts listened to music, “one song at a time,” to study and collect hundreds of musical details on each song. They then categorized almost 400 different musical attributes, such as melody, harmony, instrumentation, and vocals, and classified each song by them. They currently have several hundred thousand songs in the project, and continue to catalog more music each day as people send in CDs.

Ten years on the road had taught Westergren just how hard it is for a musician to earn a living. “I spent a lot of years pursuing a musical career, so I came face to face with the challenge that all musicians face, to get noticed among the tens of thousands of bands trying to do the same thing,” he says.

Westergren was struck by the ability of the Internet to help solve the problem of introducing new music and artists to the fans who would enjoy them, buy their records and attend their concerts, and so Pandora was born.

Building a company. Westergren had the bad luck to start an internet-based company in the same year as the dot-com crash. “It was 2000 and we were flat broke working out of an apartment in San Francisco, without a salary, hanging on for dear life,” he says.

“Every entrepreneur, except those few who are wildly lucky, have to expect an extended period of time when they are not making money, when it is not clear if it will work out,” says Westergren. “Every day is filled with anxiety because you are experimenting, going down an uncharted path. Not everyone has the make up for it. You have to stay in the desert long enough to stick around and find the oasis.”

Pandora has experienced enormous success in the year it has been online. The company is “not yet profitable,” but the worst days, “of credit card debt and eviction notices,” are over, he says.

Pandora looks deceptively simple to users, but the work behind it is complex and takes a number of employees. Not only are there the technical people who handle the music “streaming,” and the website, but also the analysts who constantly update the music base, and of course there is the sales staff, who bring in the advertisers that support the site.

Listeners to Pandora.com can either listen for free or become paid subscribers for $36 per year. The difference, says Westergren, is advertising. Free subscribers see a variety of ads on the site, so far only graphic, not audio. “So far,” he says cautiously, “ad sales are going very well.”

Looking to the future. Westergren sees Pandora as much more than a website. He hopes it will eventually be a catalyst to create “a musician’s middle class.” His firsthand experience taught him how difficult it is for all but a few musicians with nationwide appeal to make a living. “I want it to be possible for the 50,000 who will love them to find that great Bluegrass band in Indiana, and for that band to be able to quit their day jobs.”

Pandora.com helps provide direct income to those small bands by paying royalties for playing their songs. It also provides indirect income: as more people hear the music they are more likely to buy the CD, go to the concert, or purchase a t-shirt. As songs play on the site the listener can click on the title and learn more about the artist, and be linked to buy the CD through Amazon.com or iTunes.com.

Westergren would like to make the links even more interactive. “It would be great if as a song plays a pop-up tells you when the group will be performing in your area.” Other plans for the future include making Pandora available internationally. Currently it is only licensed in the U.S.

Ultimately, Westergren hopes his company will “turn the music industry upside down,” giving listeners a greater choice in music and creating an industry that can support thousands of artists, rather than just a few hundred.

— Karen Hodges Miller

Questions Lead To Meaningful Change

When T. Waldmann-Williams of Bridgewater-based TWW Consulting (www.twwconsulting.com) left the College of St. Mary in Omaha with a bachelor’s degree in music and education in 1974, she figured she was likely to end up as an educational administrator. She already had experience in both juggling her time and in being a leader: “I was president of everything at college and had four jobs,” she says, and that was after working two years to help support a sick sister and earn money for her own education.

Of course, being in a family of seven in Council Bluffs, Iowa, also gave her some early experience in education and leadership. “I got to see all this being modeled without really understanding it,” she says, and indeed her parents were good role models. Her mom was a homemaker as well as a designer of both clothes and interiors, an artist, and “quite a philosopher,” and her dad was an officer at Union Pacific Railroad and was “good at economics.”

When Waldmann-Williams finished college, she remembers hearing from friends who were teachers that educational administrators were awful. So she asked herself the question: If I’m going to be an administrator, how can I prepare to be a good one? Her answer was “If I’m going into administration, first I should learn how a business is run,” and she so she applied for and landed a job in the management program at Northwestern Bell.

Her career within the Bell family of companies, and ultimately with AT&T, involved moving around the country, with opportunities to work in “everything except direct sales and logistics.” She was intimately involved in the breakup of AT&T, doing econometric studies and testifying before commissions, and after the breakup was complete, she marketed the new AT&T as it faced competition from the Bell companies that had been stripped away. During this time she also earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Nebraska.

Then in 1998 she made some big changes in her life. She left AT&T to establish her own consulting firm and she received doctorates in business and education from the Union Institute and University in Cincinnati.

Waldmann-Williams talks about “Change and Inquiry: You Can’t Have One without the Other!” on Thursday, February 8, at 8:30 a.m. at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Rothman Institute of Entrepreneurial Studies’ 2007 Family Business Forum: “Continuity and Harmony in the Family Firm.” For more information or to register, call Kim Dennison at 973-443-8880.

When Waldmann-Williams wants to get herself moving at “slow times,” she usually asks herself the question, “What do I have to learn now?” and then she does it pronto. Whether the goal is starting a new business, losing weight, getting out of bed after a serious illness, or implementing change in a business or an organization, it’s a question that gets the process moving.

“Nothing changes without a new question,” she says. “If you get the right question, you get the right results.” The answer to that question is likely to initiate a series of change processes that can be effective in any organization:

Develop a clear vision. Leaders need to articulate a clear statement of the change envisioned and ensure that it is consonant with the organization’s values and mission.

“You have to make sure that everyone is on the same page and has the same vision,” says Walmann-Williams.

Create a need. The need to change must be greater than the resistance to it. “People are not going to move unless they have to,” she says, “unless the pain is greater than the gain.” The leadership must articulate the need for change and help people realize that “if you stay still, you are going to be worse off than where you started.”

She suggests that leaders not mince words, because it may take “a significant emotional event” to kick start the change process. For example, a boss might have to say something like, “unless you change, we’re not going to be around,” or “unless we really talk to our clients, they will go to someone else, and then we won’t have money to pay you.”

Establish a sense of urgency. Often lots of internal communication helps to create the sense of urgency that will propel change. This communication can take a variety of forms, including newsletters, one-on-one conversations, meetings, brown-bag luncheons, and strategy meetings that elicit input from people at all levels.

Build commitment. The leadership must ensure that everyone is demonstrating commitment by offering visible and verbal support and letting people know that conflict will occur and must be identified and resolved.

“You want to get commitment from a strong network of people across the organization,” says Waldmann-Williams. To be successful the “right people” must be willing to invest completely in the change effort. She has had experiences with organizations where people committed verbally, but weren’t willing to take action. She remembers one person telling her, “I’m 90 percent there, but I’m a lazy person.”

Waldmann-Williams cites a project in a part of Sweden above the Arctic Circle where the local industries of logging and mining were fading out. The choice was either for the region to develop different kinds of businesses or lose its population. All stakeholders — government, industries, schools, and different associations — had to join together to say, “we can make this happen and we can support each other doing this.”

But before this could happen, it was essential to identify the key players, and to determine which were eager to find a solution, and which would probably offer resistance.

Decide on the best motivators for change. “Creating a need doesn’t necessarily build it to action,” says Waldmann-Williams. To get things going requires using what she calls “levers for change.” These might be education, rewards and recognition, or even a change in the design of an organization. If the current people don’t support the change, an organization may need to hire new people who will.

A leader needs to really understand the organization to know what levers will work best. Waldmann-Williams cites the example of a CEO of a family business who wants to retire, yet sees that the family members coming up are not the right ones to lead. This CEO will have to decide whether to provide leadership training to the next generation or to hire someone from the outside and provide the kids with a different reward or recognition. “Some people want a title, but others are happy with just money,” she observes.

Engineer the process. This requires determining the tasks required to get the result you want and then ordering them.

Monitor progress. Businesses and the people in them have to be monitoring specific measures to see change. “What gets measured gets done,” says Waldmann-Williams. Fundraisers, for example, often use a picture of a thermometer with a rising red bar to measure progress toward a goal.

Because change is a long process, those involved need to have smaller interim measures to judge how they are doing. These yardsticks can include customers not complaining; a project completed on time, on schedule, and on or under budget; fewer disagreements in meetings because issues were handled up front; or new hires learning more quickly than in the past.

Ensure that the change lasts. Waldmann-Williams cites her own experiences with diets. She had lost and kept off 40 pounds, but then encountered loads of stress while doing her doctorate and starting a new business, and the pounds crept back on. She realized that she had to change her mindset, not just her actions.

“I had to think of what would sustain me over time,” she says, “what would support me getting there.” She has had to make proper eating part of her personal culture and develop measures to ensure that it lasts. “I have to make sure it is a way of life and not just a project,” she says.

Celebrate the change. In order to stay inspired on the way and for the long haul, people need to celebrate the changes they have already made.

Ultimately what Waldmann-Williams is talking about, though, is not change but transformation. Transformation is a bunch of little changes that create a barrier against moving backward. “People may want to go back,” she says, “but physically, mentally, and emotionally they can’t.” They may indulge in visions of what she calls Pity City, “but they can’t stay there. They can only visit.”

— Michele Alperin

Make Customers Market For You

If the world speaks well of you, you’ll never need a sales force. After 18 years of running Mechanical Service, a Whippany-based HVAC firm, Michael Rosone discovered that 80 percent of his new business came from just a handful of his most loyal customers. Others, whom he had treated equally well, wouldn’t carry his company’s message to anyone for all the wine in France. He wondered why.

Rosone found the answer as to what forges stronger, more beneficial relationships by becoming a client of SoundBoard (www.yoursoundboard.com) consultants in Boonton. Three years later he joined SoundBoard, and now, as its managing director, he helps to pass on the secret.

Rosone speaks on “Idea Centers of Influence: Building Business Relationships” at the National Association of Women Business Owners’ Procurement Event and Expo on Thursday, February 8, at 8 a.m. at Pines Manor in Edison. Cost: $150. Visit www.njawbo.org. Rosone presents his talk with SoundBoard’s president Richard Magid.

Rosone describes himself as “a self-help junkie — always wanting to bootstrap some new plan into action.” Despite growing up in a very corporate family in Montville, he always had an entrepreneurial bent. In high school he was constantly selling things, and acted as a runner for a local heating, ventilation, and air conditioning firm.

After graduating from St. Michael’s College with a business and marketing degree in l985, he founded a little firm called Watch Out. He sold a bizarre and fun line of novelty watches, at first finding customers among a few friends, and then building Watch Out into a real business. He then sold life and health insurance for a year, until his high school friend called on him.

Rosone has worked with his friend’s HVAC company prior to college. “Like most entrepreneurs, he was a real technical person whose company had grown and pushed its owner into all the HR and financial stuff he hated,” says Rosone. For the next 18 years, as company COO, Rosone relieved his friend of those duties, and the partnership flourished until he left to work for SoundBoard.

The SoundBoard philosophy is simple: The best way for a business to gain more business is to have supportive individuals spread the company’s message to others. The trick is to find these supportive individuals to deepen relations with them.

An army of influencers. It is often said that today’s businessperson has no friends — just contacts. Such contacts, we are told, are snared by aggressive networking, generally in the form of pitching attributes to potentially valuable strangers. But Rosone says that this target-and-connect strategy is not only exhausting, but also futile. The networker is always seen as a seller, invariably suspect, going it alone.

A more fruitful course is to cultivate individuals with whom you resonate, and let them broadcast your name and provide recommendations. Rosone calls these people “influencers.” They may be satisfied clients, spouses, vendors, fellow church members, employees, or suppliers.

Rosone and Magid keep a sharply defined list of SoundBoard’s influencers and bring them together at a party of thanks every year. This gathering provides an effective meeting ground for the many supporters who don’t know each other, showing each one that he is part of a quality group. It also gives the company an opportunity to fill in blanks and restate its message.

Discerning values. Words like “orderly,” “fun,” “integrity,” “freedom,” “authenticity,” and “flexibility” all indicate specific qualities that different individuals may value. Each touches a tacit, special note, which may resonate and spark a bond between two people. Striking a common feeling on only a few of points like these can lead individuals to a feeling of kinship and connection.

Often, from this point of shared values alone, says Rosone, people are willing to take on the role of influencer. “One man may meet an electrician at his club, take a liking to him, and with no more knowledge of the fellow’s business abilities, recommend him to everyone he knows,” he says. “It can get tricky here, because frequently the influencer’s message may be based on a mere character reference.” Yet generally, it’s all good publicity.

Competency. To keep these influencers championing the company’s cause, the contact must con tinually prove his competency to him. The entrepreneur may seek to make everyone his sales rep, but to achieve this he must go beyond a meshing of personal values. He’s got to walk the walk, and let the influencer see the firm’s ability.

Rosone suggests that such proof of competency can be provided by casually showing the firm’s facility, prototype, or an example of its service. Introducing the influencer to partners and executives also strengthens the bond.

The relationship of business owner and influencer is a subtle one, and requires subtle tending. Messengers must be fed, but they need more than a steady diet of chest thumping.

Quality marketing. “A real influencer is someone with the desire and ability to articulate your firm’s message,” says Rosone. “You do not want just anyone. If a man has trouble describing his own business to me, he in no way is going to be able to beneficially describe mine.”

Rosone’s strategy is to never throw anyone away because he or she doesn’t seem to be very influential. After all, this person’s neighbor may be a dream client. Yet the entrepreneur must value his time. He must concentrate on those individuals are the most articulate and most willing.

This demands that the influencer be armed with a certain level of knowledge. If a company’s price is comparatively high, for example, he should know why.

Deepening these relationships is an inherent part of business. It is part advertising, part networking, part base building, all in its most lasting form. The grooming of influencers takes constant work, yet it typically is done on the fly. If an owner believes in his business, it will come through to everyone he meets every day. If his is not an ardent passion, perhaps he shouldn’t be in business in the first place.

— Bart Jackson

Monday, February 12

Riding a Business Niche For All It’s Worth

John Koger’s Oasis Semiconductor went from start-up to a $75 million sale in 10 years. He reveals the hustle, strategies, and good fortune required for this kind of growth when he speaks on “Diary of a Startup” on Monday, February 12, at 6:30 p.m. at Princeton University’s Friend Center. The free event is hosted by the university’s Center for Innovation and Engineering Education. Visit http://commons.princeton.edu/ ciee or call 609-258-3979.

A Boston native, Koger is a third generation electrical engineer, and also a third generation Princeton University graduate. His father (Class of 1958) and his grandfather preceded him in the university’s electrical engineering program. On the other side of his family, Koger’s maternal grandfather graduated from Princeton in 1927. Koger earned his undergraduate degree in 1985 and went on to earn an MSEE from Columbia the following year.

Upon completing his education, Koger, like many successful entrepreneurs, delved into a hot, innovative field and began learning the ropes. He joined Digital Equipment Corporation’s Graphics & Multimedia Group, initially as a design engineer. He rose from there to become the group’s marketing manager.

The chip quandary. For the seven years he designed them and the three he sold them, Koger was involved in the chip quandary facing all computer firms. Throughout the late-l980s and early-l990s, Digital and its competitors could not settle on how much of their resources they should focus on producing their own chips.

“Typically,” recalls Koger, “senior managers would swing from ‘let’s just design and make our own,’ to ‘let’s outsource the whole chip problem,’ to ‘let’s become a foundry, make our chips, and sell the surplus to others.’” This led to designs being launched, then canceled mid-stream, plus long redevelopment times, often up to a year-and-a-half.

The entire chip market was in flux. And, just as was the case in the tug of war between Apple-compatible versus Microsoft-compatible software designs, who made what for whom was producing industry confusion.

Here Koger saw his opening. Clearly, quality chips were needed, and just as clearly an increasing variety of devices, well beyond computers, would be requiring them.

Out to launch. “It really was a ridiculous shoestring start, considering the size of the enterprise we were starting,” says Koger. To get going, Koger borrowed $350,000 from a high school buddy, hired one other person, and began working out of his home. (Years later, Koger remembers “people laughing hysterically when I told them how little we borrowed.”)

Oasis Semiconductor’s first product was a digital chip for black and white copiers. The niche was ideal. As Koger’s chip came on the scene, scanners, printers, and image processors were all just beginning to shift from analog to digital. Further, suppliers had all figured out that the real image processor money was in the ink, so Oasis did not run into overwhelming competition from other chip makers.

In no time Oasis had moved into a small office in Waltham, Massachusetts. Koger did the designing, along with the other engineer who comprised the team. Manufacturing was outsourced to a plant in Korea. Later this task would bounce around to facilities in Taiwan and in Orlando, Florida. Koger credits his success to launching the firm with two engineers, rather than one production person and one sales person. “It made for our wearing many hats, from trash hauler to accountant, but it kept us concentrated on innovation,” he says.

A mere two weeks after start up, Koger traveled to England on a sales trip that lasted for several weeks. “When I got back, the company’s only employee was frantic and ready to leave, wondering where I’d gone and what kind of kook had he signed on with,” he recounts.

The upward climb. Koger peddled his chips to Canon, Xerox, Sharp, and other image processor companies. Initially reactions were mixed. “The designers we called on in those firms nixed us,” he says, “but the bill payers were enthused, So we got the jobs.”

Oasis concentrated on minimizing the big board that traditionally was the hub of a multitude of imaging functions. Eventually the company was able to replace huge $800 control boards with $10 microchips. Business soared. The company also took the lead in the development of the all-in-one printer, scanner, copier that has become so popular. By 2005, only 10 years after launch, Oasis Semiconductor had sold over 15 million chips.

Selling off rich. “If a firm doesn’t go bankrupt,” says Koger, “it has three choices. It can stay small (something the market usually decides), go public, or sell out to a larger firm.” By 2005 Oasis had 100 employees, and the business was growing. Koger considered making an initial public stock offering, but was overwhelmed by the headaches involved in the process. He also knew that even a whiff of public offering would attract immediate interest from buyers.

As he pondered his next move, and his intentions became known, SigmaTel came to call. A major supplier of MP3 chips, SigmaTel liked what it saw and plunked down $70 million for Oasis in what Koger terms a surprisingly smooth deal. SigmaTel Waltham, an arm of the international circuitry and digital media company, which has its headquarters in Austin, Texas, stills operates out of Koger’s original Waltham offices.

Koger says that the prime requirement of a successful business is pure good fortune. Market changes, unforeseeable competition, economic shifts, or unlucky product obsolescence can strike dead even the most wisely managed startup.

While these factors are often beyond the entrepreneur’s control, Koger says that cash management, a vital function in a start-up, is easier to manage. The entrepreneur must borrow enough to ride out his plan into liquidity. “This is probably where 80 percent of the failures occur,” says Koger.

But win or loose, Koger says that the wild ride is definitely worth it. Will he do it again soon? “Maybe sometime,” he says, “but right now I’m going to sit back and get reunited with my family.”

— Bart Jackson

Tuesday, February 13

The News Media In the Digital Age

Has truth been pressed out of the news room as a nonessential by-product? Veteran nightly news producer and journalist Bruce Reznick doesn’t think so. On the other hand, he readily admits that high tech haste, revolving-door personnel, and a whole lot of unseen influential characters in the lineup have made it an entirely new locker room back there. Anyone seeking to get an honest, accurate message across, he says, had better know the unofficial rules of this much-changed game.

Reznick speaks to the Communications Marketing and Advertising Association on “Working with Today’s News Media” on Tuesday, February 13, at 11:30 a.m. at the New Jersey Hospital Association on Alexander Road. Cost: $ 35. Visit ww.njcama.org.

A native of Brooklyn, Reznick graduated from Brooklyn College in the early 1970s and went to work in public radio. Throughout his career he has produced and written news shows for NBC, ABC, and CBS. After more than three decades in the news business, Reznick says that he has “watched the system remake itself entirely in the last few years.”

Though he still works on several shows from his New York office, Reznick is also building his own business. Last year he teamed up with Ann Higgins to form Utopia.biz, a consulting firm in Red Bank. The start-up is in the business of guiding clients “seeking to air their message” by helping them to become their own newsroom.

The media’s recent re-creation, in Reznick’s view, was brought about as a result of a series of carefully crafted blunders that have shattered public trust and hung an aura of disrespect around the news.

At any speed. “To tune into the news now is like watching a channel flipper on methamphetamines,” says Reznick. Faced with intense time pressure, editors seek stories that are, above all, quick and easy. The traditional producer’s questions used to be Why this story? Why at this time? The new question is can we get it up by six p.m.?

The first casualty of this rush to report is invariably accuracy. Long gone are the army of fact checkers that were once a standby in both print and broadcast media. “A perfect example of this is the Obama story,” says Reznick. Recently “Fox And Friends” host Steve Doocy aired an article from the online weekly “Insight” stating that presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill) had been educated in a Muslim madrassah in Indonesia.

“The whole story was totally false, but watch what happened,” says Reznick. “This distortion rippled out at lightning speed, and took on a life of its own — the reaction of competing candidates, etc. The message that it was false got completely lost.”

Staff gutting. In the common quest to do more with less, reporters, editors, and production staff have attained the status of middle management in so many other industries — frivolous entities best whittled down. Such “fat” proudly trimmed does not, in the eyes of senior management, alter the actual product of the news. The product, after all, is viewers, which are sold to the news programs’ clients — the advertisers. The news is merely a lure to pull the viewers in.

“Basically what has happened is that the entire infrastructure of the news system has been gutted,” says Reznick. Couple this with the turnover of staff, caused by continual sell offs and buy outs, and many news bureaus are staffed not with veterans, but rather with novices.

“In the old days, one would cultivate contacts at a magazine or station,” says Reznick. These were knowledgeable people who had worked their beats for years.” But no more. “Last December 14 I called up a company and by the end of January, it had been sold twice,” he says. “The person I finally talked with was clueless.”

News appreciation. “The fact that local TV news treats the city’s underclass like cheap theater scars not only those people, but also the credibility of the news,” says Reznick. In this age of news as showmanship, ratings have become the story editors. If a station finds its ratings are slipping in the Kansas City among older viewers, then it will run a story featuring elder healthcare costs in Kansas. While the story may have legitimacy, Reznick says that there is a definite sin of omission here.

Yet not every attempt to spin content and to entertain can control what viewers take away from the news. “I believe that this administration’s magnificently timed and orchestrated hanging of Saddam Hussein, more than anything, spelled the death knell for the Bush policy in Iraq,” says Reznick. “When American viewers saw those screaming hooligans stringing him up in a style reminiscent of Judge Roy Bean, the reverberation came like acid reflux and we wanted no part of this stuff.”

This is a democracy and the truth will not be buried, says Reznick.

Media end runs. It is difficult to say exactly when Hillary Clinton announced her presidential candidacy. Her campaign strategists first sent the news over the Internet. Then Clinton selectively called on ABC and other networks, shopping for just the right talk shows, and making clear her terms of control.

The Bush administration, which holds few press conferences and has limited news access in Iraq, has also performed what Reznick terms “an end run around the media,” publishing its own pre-spun message in its own way.

Controlling the media has long been a political strategy, but Reznick says that other types of organizations are now also eager to craft their messages. UNICEF has developed its own TV network, made its own videos, and marketed them to distributor the Newsmarket

The films are then shepherded through everything from television broadcasts to iPods. Wal-Mart emulates this media method by establishing a feed room to push its stories into publication.

Your own newsroom. In a news media climate where new, inexperienced faces, understaffing, and no little confusion reigns, Reznick sees great opportunity for marketers. Editors and producers are hungry for the ready-made, total-package story, written accurately, well, and entertainingly.

“In short, the marketer who can become his own newsroom, will be the one whose message we hear,” says Reznick. Merely sending out a letterhead press release is no longer adequate. Multimedia presentations that leave little for the editors to do are a best bet. Text that brings in quotations from several authors, and has each of its facts and statistics backed up by source footnotes, will win notice.

In actuality, most businesses have more production capabilities on their desktop than existed in the entire studio of Edward R. Murrow. Using these tools can give any company an edge in getting its story heard in the free-wheeling Wild West that “news” has become.

— Bart Jackson

A Grant For Science Education

Professors at New Jersey Institute of Technology were awarded a $1.1 million, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation to change the way inner city students learn about science and technology. The money will allow engineering professors from NJIT’s Newark College of Engineering (NCE) and specialists from NJIT’s Center for Pre-College Programs to help public school teachers build a sophisticated science and technology curriculum.

“We’ll be using an exciting and excellent program from which we’ve already seen great results,” associate professor Ronald Rockland, the principal investigator of the project, said in a prepared statement. “We’ll be offering these kids the chance to use Legos to build robots and solve biomedical engineering problems.” Teacher training will take place through August. The program will be initially implemented into classrooms this coming September.

Howard Kimmel, executive director of NJIT’s Center for Pre-college Programs, said he has already seen results from this program. “We use age appropriate versions with our pre-college students during the summer and they love it,” Kimmel said in a prepared statement. “But now with this infusion of money, we plan on building and buying better equipment to help inner city youngsters and their teachers move to a level that they haven’t reached before.”

The program merges medicine, robotics, and information technology. As the youngsters build with the Lego kits, they will learn in a hands-on way how to solve engineering problems. They will also apply principles in physics, mathematics, information technology and more.

Currently in NJIT biomedical classes, freshman bioengineering students use the same kits to complete a two-credit course in engineering design. The NJIT professors note that kits can be adopted for other age groups.

“We hope to make a difference in the lives of youngsters and teachers who, without this opportunity, might have no or minimal interest in science and technology careers and curricula,” said Rockland. “Sadly, many pre-college students even in our suburban communities are not exposed until 12th grade to topics in these fields.

“For many inner-city youngsters, the situation is worse. Their only interaction with technology may be using a personal computer for word processing and other non-technical tasks.

“Without opportunities, too many of our urban students do not develop the interest and skills to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. These are emerging careers and require skills in high demand for our knowledge and technology economy.”

Grants For Lawrence Non-Profits

The Lawrence Township Community Foundation has awarded $37,000 in grants, ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 to 14 non-profit groups. Funding for these grants is supported with gifts from Bristol-Myers Squibb, ETS, Rider University, and the Wachovia Foundation. The Foundation has concluded a successful fund raising campaign for the Bill Guhl Fund in honor of the retired township manager. It raised $25,000.

Any nonprofit organization that is based in Lawrence Township and that broadly serves the residents of Lawrence Township and enhances community life is eligible to submit a grant request. Every grant requesting organization must certify its classification as a 501(c)(3) organization as designated by the Internal Revenue Service.

The foundation is looking to fund projects that impact the quality of life and well being of the residents of Lawrence Township. In considering each grant, the foundation will consider many tangible and intangible factors to include, but not limited by the following: merits of the project; impact of the quality of life on Lawrence Township residents; how broad the potential impact may be; the amount of the grant request, the merits of competing grant requests, and the foundation’s available funds.

At this time the foundation will not be funding building renovations, new facility construction, capital expenses, dinners, galas or other ticketed events, endowments, individuals for any purpose, political lobbying activities or other political purposes, religious programs, or classroom or curricular activities for Lawrence Township Public Schools.

Deadlines to submit grant requests are March 15 for the spring cycle and October 15 for the fall cycle. Decisions will be made on the spring grant requests by May 1. Funding will be made available to successful applicants approximately 15 days later. Send grant proposals to the Lawrence Township Community Foundation, Box 6707, Lawrenceville, 08648-0707.

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