|Tom Rogers on Primedia's
potential as an internet player
Magazines, the power of print and niches
By Jeremy Schlosberg
There are a lot of things that Tom Rogers doesnt know about the job he just accepted as chairman and CEO of Primedia.
Rogers doesnt know a whole lot about traditional print publishing, having spent his corporate career at NBC. He doesnt know yet how he will transform Primedia into a web powerhouse.
Rogers doesnt even know exactly when hes supposed to start work.
But Rogers knows a lot about leading a traditional media company into a position of leadership in new media, as he proved during his 12 years spearheading NBCs push first into cable then onto the internet. If he likes what he sees at Primediaand obviously he does, to make the leap from his high-profile perch at the Peacock network--it has a lot to do with what he already knows about building new media ventures from old media organizations.
"Primedia is in my mind a collection of assets that have performed very consistently," said Rogers at a press conference yesterday. "What I see here is a traditional media company that is just waiting to have its full new media potential developed."
He said he believes strongly in this potential because of how niche-oriented most of Primedias properties already are.
"Primedias broad-based collection of assets have one overwhelming characteristic which is critical to development of internet asset value--targeted reach." On the internet, he said, the sites with tightly defined audiences are those that can most reliably create and support new assets.
"Niche, targeted audience reach becomes the prime characteristic for success on the internet," he said.
If the internet has learned a lot from the cable narrowcasting model, perhaps the new media world has something to learn additionally from niche-oriented magazines, suggests Rogers.
As the broadband market emerges, and with it new and as-yet undetermined programming opportunities, Rogers believes highly targeted print publications have content and audience expertise that may be highly valuable.
"Whats going to grow is the ability to create what Ill call microniche video opportunities out of these existing enthusiast publications," said Rogers. "There simply havent been opportunities around for that in the past."
Another thing Rogers likes about the print world is an obvious but often overlooked point: for now, and for the foreseeable future, the internet is a text-oriented experience.
"In the television world, broadcasters have begun to use TV as a way to drive people to a PC and what is largely an experience of reading on a PC," he said.
"In the magazine world you have readers in your traditional base; they are already reading something, and you are involved in less of a stretch when youre involved in moving people to a reading experience."
As such, he sees some inherent advantages to coming to the internet from printand admitted at the press conference to being surprised at how relatively undeveloped a new media presence the magazine industry has thus far had.
When Rogers talks about the internet, people listen. Earlier this year, he was named one of the 21 most influential people in the internet economy by The Industry Standard.
While not everything hes done at NBC has been a runaway successhe was responsible for the networks notoriously unsuccessful Olympic "TripleCast" in 1992he is obviously a smart and resourceful media player who knows his nuts and bolts just as well as his big-picture strategies.
A lawyer by trade, he spent six years as senior counsel to the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Telecommunications before going to NBC. While in Washington he worked prominently on the writing of the landmark Cable Act of 1984.
-Jeremy Schlosberg is the senior editor for