After a lengthy search, Primedia last week tapped Mr. Rogers, 45, to succeed founder and former CEO William Reilly, 62, who announced his retirement in July and left the company in early September.
Henry Kravis, a founding partner of Primedia's biggest stockholder, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., cited Mr. Rogers' background "in creating new-media businesses from traditional media assets" as a key factor in the appointment.
"This is a traditional media company that has just been waiting to have its new-media potential developed," said Mr. Rogers, formerly exec VP-NBC and president, NBC Cable. "And that development is not restricted to the Internet. We will also look to develop video cable distribution and broadband."
Mr. Rogers faces a formidable challenge as Primedia's new chairman-CEO. While the company has many profitable and well-regarded media properties -- including New York, Seventeen and numerous business-to-business titles -- Wall Street has been less than enthusiastic.
With the news of Mr. Rogers' appointment and his commitment to an Internet strategy, the company's stock price jumped by 1 3/8 on Sept. 27, to 12 3/8. Primedia's stock has lagged other publishing companies, much to KKR's frustration. Its 52-week low is 9 5/8, while the high has been 18 5/8.
"It's an inspired appointment," said Kevin Gruenich, a media analyst for Bear, Stearns & Co., who said he believes Primedia under Mr. Rogers will most likely step up its venture-capital investing as well as its cross-promotion activity, much like NBC did under his watch.
In his 10-year stint at NBC, Mr. Rogers was instrumental in creating CNBC and MSNBC. But unlike NBC, Primedia does not have a flagship brand that unites company culture. Its vast holdings in a variety of publishing categories make it difficult to project a clear identity as to its core businesses or strengths.
Whether or not stamping Primedia as an Internet-focused company will work remains to be seen. Top priority will go toward creating organic growth from existing businesses.
But Bear Stearns' Mr. Gruenich cautions that Primedia will need to choose the properties it wants to promote carefully.
'GOOD FOR THE INDUSTRY'
"He's going to have to pick which assets are especially meaningful for this Internet push and focus on those," he said. "It's good for the magazine industry as a whole, though, to have Primedia pursuing this. The industry has been slow to generate creative Internet strategies, and to have one of the leaders being quite aggressive might push some of the other players to act."
Primedia already has more than 200 Web sites. The one characteristic the properties share is that each reaches a targeted audience fitting naturally with an Internet strategy, Mr. Rogers said.
"This is a company that does not lack assets, but it has lacked strategy and direction in how to turn those assets into something where value can be created," Mr. Rogers said. "I'm confident this strategy can take this company to