No ano de 2005, eu e mais dois colegas jornalistas nos deparamos com uma notícia: um dos mais importantes jornais do mundo havia tomado a decisão de contratar uma espécie de futurólogo para pensar, desenvolver e implementar estratégias para que o jornalismo tradicional não só sobrevivesse como também mantivesse sua influência no mundo cada vez mais dominado pelas informações das redes digitais. O jornal não era nada menos do que o New York Times e o futurólogo, Michael Rogers. Fui ao seu site e deixei uma mensagem via e-mail para uma provável assessoria dizendo que eu gostaria de realizar uma entrevista com um dos maiores pesquisadores do impacto das novas tecnologias sobre velhos modelos de negócios. Qual não foi a minha surpresa quando o próprio Mister Rogers me respondeu – diga-se de passagem no mesmo dia – por meio de seu celular. Combinamos que eu enviaria as perguntas que ele prontamente me respondeu. Opto por transcrever a entrevista em inglês para não distorcer e colocar palavras mal traduzidas na boca de tão atenciosa pessoa. Ah! Meus dois colegas de ofício eram Felipe Torres e Rafael Barbosa que alguns semestres mais tarde viriam a se tornar repórteres na ilha de Cabo Verde, mas essa é uma outra história. Com vocês, o que pensa (ou pensava) Michael Rogers.
Mr Rogers, what, accurately, does a Futurist-in-Residence as yourself?
I work within the Research & Development Group of The New York Times Company, which is a team of technologists who look out 18 months to five years in the future and advise the various businesses on strategy. We estimate how technology, audiences and markets may change, and build actual prototypes of media devices to show to the various business units. My specific job is to realistically forecast what kinds of networks and devices may be available in, for example, 2010, and also how audiences may be changing in the ways they use media.
You began in a press media. And then, since 1993, you´ve been working with news technologies. Is this a way that all the print newspaper will have to cross?
I believe that almost all print publications will ultimately have electronic versions. Some will replace the print versions and some will co-exist. Over the next five to ten years, computers and other reading devices will become increasingly good substitutes for printed paper. And we will have a new audience that has grown up with the Internet, and may not have the same coffee-and-newspaper habit that their parents have. But I think paper and electronics will co-exist for years to come.
The print newspaper is unquestionably ailing. Circualation is declining, according The State of News Media 2007. Are you part of a NYT’s strategy to survive in this scenario?
It’s important to keep in mind that worldwide, newspapers remain a very profitable business. But circulation is declining for newspapers in the United States, even as our online readership is growing. If you add together print and online readership, the New York Times actually has a growing, not declining, circulation. Our real challenge now is trying to figure out how we make as much money with the online version as we do with the print version. Online revenues are growing very quickly, so we’re clearly going in the right direction.
NYT is searching for new models business. That includes to improve the journalism on line. What it has been made in this direction?
We are actively increasing the use of audio and video on the Website, as well as photo-essays. There are now podcasts of New York Times video that with the right equipment you can watch on your television in the living room. Our writers are also adopting new kinds of Web journalism, including blogs. All of this, of course, is done while observing the same strict standards of quality and accuracy that the New York Times is known for.
According a research made by El Tiempo (Colombia’s newspaper), most of the traditional vehicles fears the citizen journalism and the participation of internet’s users in their companies. What do you think about that?
This may have been true a few years ago, but I think many big media companies are now trying to reach out and include aspects of citizen journalism and user-generated content. The BBC has been very active in this area, and recently in the US, USA Today launched a new homepage that is more or less organized by the users’ tastes and preferences. The Washington Post has user comments on almost every story now. But we need to make sure that when we use contributions from our readers, it adds value in some form to our journalism. We also must make sure that we continue to remain accurate and trustworthy as well.
You talk a lot about the impacts of the technology in society. Which are the aspects that you consider to measure this impact?
I often think that being a futurist is the last refuge of the generalist in a world increasingly dominated by specialists. To truly observe the impact of technology on society you have to be able to look at many aspects—the economy, health, education, culture, the general happiness of the population. With technology, there is always something lost when something is gained. All of the new mobile Internet communications devices now, for example, mean that we no longer have to be chained to a desk all day long. At the same time, they mean that we can be “at work” constantly, on call day and night. How we adapt to these new technologies is, for me, the really interesting question.
Many times we can realize that the on line version doesn´t add any another information beyond the off line version. The content of print newspaper is merely transposed to on line media. How do you intend to work on the NYT?
This really isn’t an issue with the New York Times; our online version now contains much new material in addition to the printed edition. Newspapers and magazines that add nothing new to their online versions are missing a big opportunity to expand their audiences and are ultimately wasting their time online.
Now, the NYT´s buzz is a journalist with a video camera. What is the purpose?
It’s really just to provide another story-telling option. Video sometimes helps explain a story better than just words and pictures. At the same time, however, there are many stories that are best told in words. And a series of still photographs can be far more emotional than a short video. In other words, each media type—audio, video, text, graphics, animation—has a place in story-telling. Our goal is to make sure that our journalists are always able to use whichever medium or mediums are right for their story.
Thomas L. Friedman – a NYT’s journalist- is an optmist about this new world. He sees chance where some people only can see huge companies ruling the whole planet. Which team do you belong?
While it does seem that globalization can encourage enormous multinational corporations, it’s also the case that the spread of the Internet has allowed many new small businesses to flourish as well. You could argue that the direction of the Internet is “distributed business” rather than centralization. Look at the rise of regional financial centers such as Singapore and Dubai that are beginning to challenge New York and London for local business.
As a futurist, what you can say about the future to us?
I think it’s important to keep in mind that it’s rarely possible to really predict the future in a perfect way. The future will always surprise us. But by thinking and talking about possible futures, we can envision new ways to move ahead that, in the end, will help make it more likely that we reach the future we want.