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New York Times Co. Brings Futurist Aboard

Posted by Tish Grier

In a first for the newspaper industry, The New York Times Company recently announced that interactive media pioneer Michael Rogers has taken a one-year appointment as the Company's futurist-in-residence. Mr. Rogers will work as a consultant with the research and development unit in developing new strategies and innovations for Times's online and other products..

Mr. Rogers, former new media exec with Washington Post Co. and general manager, founded his own consulting firm in 2004, and writes the Practical Futurist column for MSNBC.

In an interview with I Want Media, Mr. Rogers discussed why the Times chose to bring on a futurist, as well as some of his experiences with and as a blogger. From the interview:

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: What lessons did you learn from your experiences with and the new-media division of the Washington Post Co.?

Rogers: It's trite but true: The fundamentals still apply. It all begins with writers, reporters and editors who can recognize and tell a good story. If you don't have those folks on your side, it doesn’t make any difference how good the widgets are. That's a big part of what attracted me to the Times.

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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