'Technology Is Now an Important Part of Media'

The New York Times Co.'s new futurist-in-residence predicts that a new generation of newspaper readers will soon be accustomed to reading news on a screen and won't possess an "emotional attachment" to paper.

By Patrick Phillips
I Want Media,
09/25/06

The New York Times
Co. last week announced the appointment of Michael Rogers as "futurist-in-residence," a first for the newspaper industry. The Times describes the new position as a one-year consultant appointment to work with the company's research and development unit.

Rogers, a former Washington Post Co. new-media exec and Newsweek.com general manager, will work with the Times's R&D group to develop new strategies for online and other innovations among the company's products.

Most recently, Rogers has been running Practical Futurist, a consulting firm he founded in 2004, where he works with startups and major media companies. He also writes the "Practical Futurist" column for MSNBC.

I Want Media: Why would the New York Times Co. -- or any traditional media company -- need a futurist?

Michael Rogers: More important than the "futurist" title, I think, is that I’m part of the research and development group run by Michael Zimbalist.

While R&D is a pretty standard function in a technology company, it's not so common in the traditional media industry. The management of the Times Co. understands that technology is now an important part of media and, like a technology company, you need a small team that's looking over the horizon.

That's not to say that people at NYTimes.com and About.com aren't also thinking about the future -- they certainly are. But most of them also have operational roles that absorb much of their time. R&D sets out a technology roadmap that both inspires new products and provides a context and support for the new ideas that come from the business units.

IWM: What will you be doing for the Times Co.?

Rogers: My role in R&D is in part market research seasoned with speculation: What are consumers doing today and what might the want to do tomorrow? What kind of technologies will be available and how likely is it that they will serve a wide audience?

I've also spent 20 years building and operating new media products, working across editorial, technology and business lines, so I hope to help shape product ideas to serve well in all three spheres.

Another part will be helping the R&D team communicate our work back to the business units. We're all intensely aware that even the smartest R&D is pointless if it fails to engage with the people who actually run the businesses.

IWM: In one of your recent MSNBC columns, you mused: "The way to become a futurist is simply to call yourself one." What do futurists really know?

Rogers: I backed into the futurist word six years ago when I named my Newsweek column Practical Futurist. But then I began to realize that I really had spent a lot of my career thinking about future products. And before that I'd written quite a bit of science fiction.

One VC I know once said, "You should watch what Michael's excited about, wait five years, and then invest in it." If you want an operational job, that's not exactly a glowing recommendation. But it seemed like a pretty good job description for a futurist.

Two other thoughts: First, I think that being a futurist is in a way the last refuge of the generalist. You need to pull together all kinds of sociological, economic, technologic, anthropologic information into some kind of coherent whole. And finally, I'm not sure that the real value of a futurist is to predict the future -- the future is always going to surprise us in one way or another -- but rather to get others thinking about it in a creative and flexible way.

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IWM: The Practical Futurist originated with a column and a blog for Newsweek. What do you see as the future of blogs produced by magazines or newspapers?

Rogers: The "blog" has become intertwined with the notion of self-publishing, but I think it's important to see the blog itself as one of the first truly original forms of Internet journalism. The blog energized static text with two unique Web elements -- outbound linking and close audience interaction, creating a form that by its nature can't be duplicated in print.

The blog and its successors will continue to be useful journalistic forms on the Web, whether self- or professionally published. Print can't do blogs, but they will become staples on print properties' Web sites in years to come.

If there's a problem with blogs, it's that done right they're a great deal of work; it's a daily column on steroids, and it takes a lot of energy and endurance to keep one going.

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IWM: People keep saying the newspaper industry is in bad shape. What do you say?

Rogers: Many businesses would kill to have the margins that the newspaper industry still pulls in. And, especially in the media space, I think people tend to underestimate how powerful the home court advantage really is.

That said, the industry needs to make some major shifts in business model over the next decade, and some companies are doing a smart job of that while others seem to be adopting a strategy of throwing the crew overboard to stay afloat. I count the Times among those companies that are thinking very creatively about the future while still nurturing the core product.

IWM: CNBC's Jim Cramer claims that social-networking sites like MySpace are now "worth more than the New York Times." Your thoughts?

Rogers: As many of us in the Internet business learned during the first bubble, any company is worth exactly what you can talk somebody else into paying for it, which number may have very little to do with long-term intrinsic value.

We're a long, long way from truly understanding the business value of either social networking or user-generated-content. I'm quite certain, however, that variations of both concepts will find a place in online media properties. Blogs -- user-generated-content, especially around disaster reporting -- have already become standard operating procedure for some sites.

IWM: Should newspapers charge for their online content, or is free the best way to go?

Rogers: There is a kind of commodity news that I think we'll never be able to charge money for. There are moments when I wish we could roll back the clock to 1994 and rethink that initial price-point. It's easy to lower prices, hard to raise them and harder yet when you start out at free.

But I do think with the WSJ.com and TimesSelect we're seeing the first potential for some real circulation revenue. Even in print, newspapers are beginning to offer both free and for-pay editions and as we go along I think audiences will accept fees for very high-quality content online.

Another interesting opportunity is the new generation of mobile devices we'll see over the next five years. For-pay content models are much more common on these devices and I think we’ll be able to build very rich, customized news products, delivered right to the handheld, that will seem worthy of subscription fees.

IWM: Will newspapers -- with their new capacity to post video ads on their Web sites -- start to compete with TV stations for commercials?

Rogers: Without a doubt. For starters, news sites already own the "new primetime" -- the business day -- and it's an opportunity to reach an audience when they're really, really concentrating on the content. Because their only other alternative is doing their jobs.

IWM: Will newspapers on paper disappear eventually?

Rogers: Not for a very long time. Paper is a high-resolution, high-contrast, unbreakable and extremely inexpensive display device. As the years go on, though, I think we may see more newspaper content delivered electronically and printed locally. However, we're within a few years of seeing some very effective electronic reading devices that finally do begin to challenge paper.

The new Times Reader, on a tablet PC, is already a pretty good experience. Spin that forward five years and you're starting to have a compelling alternative. Finally, in another decade, a substantial part of our audience will have grown up already doing much more of their reading on screen, and they're not likely to have the same emotional attachment to paper as does much of the current readership.

IWM: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing traditional media companies going forward?

Rogers: It's unquestionably the business model: how to generate revenues online that are comparable to what our traditional businesses yield. We have lots of ideas about how to tell stories online, and we're beginning to accumulate substantial and devoted audiences. The next step is making sure that the new digital realm generates the dollars it will take to support quality journalism in the years to come.

출처 : http://www.iwantmedia.com/people/people62.html

덧글 : 전통매체인 신문에 미래전략가를 두는 것, 이런 발상의 전환이 필요하지 않을까.

그는 이 글에서 신문이 곧 사라지지는 않겠지만, 수년 내 전자적 디바이스를 통해 신문을 읽게 될 것이고, 마침내는 신문에 큰 위협이 될 것으로 전망한다.

바로 기술이 미디어의 한 부분이 되는 것처럼 신문에게도 마찬가지의 현상이 적용되고 있는 셈이다.

실제로 많은 사람들이 신문보다는 인터넷으로 즉, 스크린으로 신문기사를 보고 있는 것은 그러한 사례이다.

최근 NYT가 선보인 'TIMES READER(태블릿 PC 등 포터블 디바이스에서 볼 수 있도록 고안된 솔루션)'을 예도 마찬가지이다.

또 지난달 28일 BBC-MS가 차세대 디지털 방송 기술을 공동으로 발전시키기 위한 제휴에 서명한 것도 같은 맥락이다.

하지만 비즈니스 모델은 여전히 의문부호다. 중요한 것은 온라인 수익을 위한 여러가지 고려들이다.

그는 어떻게 하면 신문기사를 온라인에 맞게 표현할까, 그리고 견고하고 헌신적인 독자군들을 관리하는 문제가 중요하다고 지적한다. 디지털이 최고의 저널리즘을 지탱할 수 있도록 기능해야 한다는 것이다.

 

 

 

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