Bill Gates learns from The Great Courses

Andrew Ross Sorkin unveils Bill Gate’s workout great courseshabits include learning from The Great Courses DVDs.

“…during an hour on the treadmill, Gates, a self-described nerd, would pass the time by watching DVDs from the Teaching Company’s “Great Courses” series. On some mornings, he would learn about geology or meteorology; on others, it would be oceanography or U.S. history.”

Read the full article below.

So Bill Gates Has This Idea for a History Class …

The Great Courses makes stars out of university professors

New York Times logoThe Great Courses is the nation’s leading developer and marketer of premium-quality media for lifelong learning and personal enrichment, but its television-quality studios in Chantilly, Va., also are a learning ground for the university professors that get behind the camera, reports the New York Times.

The professors, who deliver lectures on a wide range of subjects from game theory to ancient civilizations, receive coaching on how to adapt their classroom performance style to resonate with the company’s customers who will view or listen to the lectures in audio and visual formats.

“It had a transformative effect on me as a teacher,” said Jennifer Paxton, who teaches at the Catholic University of America and has recorded two history courses for the company and is working on a third. “One of the things they told me is that I should not hold back from really demonstrating the enthusiasm that I felt for the material. I think that, in a sense, I had drunk the academic Kool-Aid: You present something in a serious, sober manner.”

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For This Class, Professors Pass Screen Tests

Social Media and Modern Rights

At work the last couple of days here at Olmstead Williams Communications, we’ve been having some engaging conversations about social media and how it can affect a business’ bottom line. There have been fascinating conversations, and we’ve been posing several open-ended and critical questions in regards to our philosophy and practice.  Here are some of the questions we’ve been asking: “How can we measure success with social media?” “How can we approach it as a craft, a medium, a genre?” “How do we want to be received as a company, a brand, a voice through our various accounts?”

Awards

But the one questions we didn’t ask was how our rights were protected through social media?  How far does our freedom of speech extend in the realms of Facebook, Twitter, and others?  And can a workplace censor those ideas and opinions or hold you responsible for deprecating comments?

Well, it sure came to our attention with a great article in the New York Times by Steven Greenhouse: “Even if it Enrages Your Boss, Social Net Speech is Protected.”  According to Greenhouse, “National Labor Relations Board says workers have a right to discuss work conditions freely and without fear of retribution, whether the discussion takes place at the office or on Facebook.”

This is quite a victory for free-speech advocates who believe that social media isn’t just an extension of the workplace, but a space where opinions, thoughts, and ideas are protected from censorship and fear. Of course, this is going to bring about compelling issues over branding and marketing a business’ image. Now that employees are protected under the law and can say what they want without fear of termination, does that mean employees always should speak their mind?

For example, a bartender was fired from his job, because he posted on his Facebook that he was frustrated that his bosses hadn’t given him a raise in five years.  He went on a rant and called the patrons rednecks.  Then there was a reporter in Tuscon, Arizona, who was fired for speaking her mind. She wrote on her Facebook that there should be more murders in the city, because she needed to have something to write about.  I don’t know, but maybe they should have chosen not to say these things.

The debate has only begun. And while this recent ruling defines freedom for social-media expression, does it extend to blogs, too? Okay, companies can’t fire their employees for their posts and tweets anymore, but could they one day sue them for liable? What’s next?

Not all news media is for sale in China

Much of the media coverage in China is apparently for sale, according to an article this week in the New York Times. The practice is pervasive with PR consultants divided on how much to embrace the practice.

How pervasive? Try $20,000 per page in in the Chinese version of Esquire, $4,000 per minute on state-run China Central Television and $1 per character in Workers’ Daily, the Communist Party’s newspaper.

Pay for play is certainly not limited to China. It’s usually much more obvious in the U.S. though and tends to be clearly labeled. Also, not all press in China blends advertising and editorial content so willingly.

At Olmstead Williams Communications, our clients want to be in The Wall Street Journal and on top wires such as Reuters and the Associated Press. There are no shortcuts to penetrate the high bars for their Chinese bureaus — or any other bureau. Only a story that merits the attention will do.

Study names top financial publications and journalists

A recent survey of 349 financial journalists by Gorkana Group highlights The Wall Street Journal as the most influencial publication, with 72 percent nominating the paper. Following the Journal: Bloomberg News, The New York Times and Reuters.

The study also looked at the individuals who have the most influence. Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times placed first.

Execs from Pepsi, Southwest Airlines and others debate the new media mix

Thirty executives from PepsiCo, Southwest Airlines and leading PR, marketing, advertising and social media firms argued Tuesday that getting the mix right – between news articles, company blogs and sponsored ads – is critical for success in today’s crowded marketplace. The hour-long discussion took place during “The Future of Media: Radical Integration” webinar hosted by Cision.

While there was expected disagreement on the value and benefits that PR vs. marketing vs. advertising bring to a company’s bottom line, all participants agreed that social media is changing the equation by amplifying campaigns and closing the gap between companies and their customers. Social media’s value – its ability to interact directly with customers and engage them in conversations that result in priceless insight on what they need/want – exceeds the scale of advertising, immediacy of marketing efforts and credibility of articles in The New York Times and other trusted outlets.

PR practitioners, as natural storytellers, are the best equipped to own the social media outreach as connections with self-publishers on YouTube, Twitter and Yelp are just as important as traditional media outlets.

FOX 11 special celebrates Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year winners

Fox 11 reporter Christine Devine interviewed a number of Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award winners who discussed doing business in California, tips on starting a business and what it takes to survive in today’s economy. The 30-minute special report on entrepreneurship in California titled “Livin’ the Dream” aired this past Friday.

Also interviewed were Jim Flanigan, business columnist for the New York Times; Jane Pak, CEO of NAWBO; and, Kim Letch, partner at Ernst & Young and EOY Program Director.

EOY is the world’s most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs and celebrates those who are building and leading successful, growing and dynamic businesses, recognizing them through regional, national and global awards programs in more than 140 cities in more than 50 countries.

Living the Dream: Riot Games & Rubicon Project: MyFoxLA.com

Living the Dream: Twinmed: MyFoxLA.com

Living the Dream: Dr. Fresh: MyFoxLA.com

Living the Dream: News You Can Use: MyFoxLA.com

Lawyers Embrace Artificial Intelligence Through E-Discovery

T.V. viewers who watched Watson beat out its fellow contestants on “Jeopardy!” a few weeks ago witnessed a computer’s ability to imitate human reasoning, to a certain extent. What viewers may not have known is that attorneys have been using similar technology for some time to help build their cases. As discussed in The New York Times’ article, “Armies of Expensive Lawyers, Replaced by Cheaper Software”, lawyers are increasingly using “e-discovery” software to examine and gather documents relevant to their cases. Whereas in the past, an army of expensive lawyers might’ve spent endless days sifting through thousands, even millions of documents and evidence in preparation for a case, computers and e-discovery software use linguistic and sociological techniques to filter and gather the necessary documents (more accurately, quickly and cheaply). In the linguistic approach, the program may search for specific key words or phrases. Other e-discovery programs can filter documents by searching for suspicious activities and interactions between people – who emailed who, and when, or at what point they switched the media they communicated in – or even looking for sentiment in communications (whether an email was positive or negative).

The economic impacts of e-discovery, which can save clients millions of dollars, are still under debate. Some experts believe automation creates unemployment, while others believe it merely slows job growth. On the other hand, other experts point to technologies’ limits. For instance, e-discovery doesn’t entirely eliminate the need for manpower – the documents collected by the software still have to be reviewed and read by lawyers.

For now, however, lawyers are taking notice of the benefits of e-discovery.

“People get bored, people get headaches. Computers don’t,” says attorney Bill Herr, who used to muster auditoriums of lawyers to read documents for weeks on end when he worked for a major chemical company.

New U.S. Policy on Internet Freedom Abroad Raises Questions About Policies Back Home

As most major news media outlets have reported this week, including The New York Times (see article here), the Obama administration just announced its new Internet freedom policy to help Internet users worldwide circumvent government-imposed firewalls and censors, help them secure their e-mail from surveillance or, in the case of demonstrators, help them delete incriminating data from cell phones or other devices if they are detained by police. The idea – especially in light of recent mass protests in Egypt, Bahrain, Libya and other parts of the Arab world – is to make it harder for repressive regimes to use technology to stifle dissent.

“The United States continues to help people in oppressive Internet environments get around filters, stay one step ahead of the censors, the hackers and the thugs who beat them up or imprison them for what they say online,” said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

While the new policy (which will require $25 million in funding ) championing freedom of expression seems like a noteworthy cause, it also raises questions about whether the Unites States is doing enough to protect its own Internet users. Some believe the U.S. government could do more in the area of data privacy, for instance, to protect consumers’ personal information online from misuse. Others feel that if America is going to talk about censorship abroad, it has to discuss changes that can be made at home as well, for instance, when it comes to federal wiretapping and government surveillance programs.

In her address this week, Clinton also defended the administration’s handling of the Wikileaks incident, calling the Wikileaks disclosures “an act of theft” of sensitive government documents whose publication made it far harder for the United States to protect its security or promote human rights and democracy around the world, cites The New York Times. “Wikileaks does not challenge our commitment to Internet freedom,” Clinton said.

With the number of Internet users worldwide expected to grow by five billion in the next 20 years, it’s clear that the State Department has many questions to consider as it shapes its Internet policies and solidifies its definition of Internet freedom.

The Risk-Taking Edge of West Coast Women

By Pamela Ryckman
The New York Times
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When Deborah Perry Piscione moved to Silicon Valley after a career in media and foreign relations on the East Coast, it wasn’t the weather or wealth that amazed her. It was the women.

“Back east, my whole network was men,” she said, “but here there’s this big group of incredible, fearless women. They rise a lot more quickly in their careers, and they support each other. They’ve made their own money and they take risks. There’s such a disconnect between the two coasts.”

On the West Coast, Ms. Perry Piscione made contacts through a series of influential women and, within 18 months of her arrival, raised $5 million from a single female investor to become co-founder of a production company, Desha Productions, and its accompanying Web site, BettyConfidential.com, an online magazine for women.

Ms. Perry Piscione sees West Coast businesswomen opening their Rolodexes and, perhaps more important, their wallets for one another, and she says she believes their East Coast counterparts have something to learn. “There are all of these women who made tons of money and now are not doing anything with it,” she said. East Coast women may have attended top business schools and reached the apex of corporate America, but Ms. Perry Piscione said, “they’re not making their mark.” They are losing relevance, she said, in the “new economy.”