Reading and researching Dr. Everett M. Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations theory has opened my eyes to something. I am a laggard. I am that one person who is the last to give into change, whether it be a behavior or innovation. A laggard, as described in A Summary of Diffusion of Innovations by Les Robinson, is someone who holds out to the bitter end. For reasons I can’t explain, I am always the last to give into changes when it comes to new technology. Most people would not expect that considering I led two newsrooms’ digital efforts during my journalism career. I should be the innovator or at the very least an early adopter, ready to communicate new ideas. However, I am that one person that always needs a little extra convincing. I need to know how the change will directly affect my routine in a positive way.
Back in 1999, I was hired to work as news producer at a television station in Charlotte, NC. Shortly after starting this job, the station launched its website: nbc6.com. Everyone was so proud of this new technology and this new tool to reach viewers. I had not seen a website at the two previous television stations where I had worked. So this was all new to me and I loved it. That day seeds were planted. I became so fascinated with the website that I decided to purchase the book “HTML for Dummies” so that I could learn more about creating websites. I experimented on my own and became pretty efficient. When the opportunity to work on the web team came along, I was so excited. I worked with reporters to make sure their stories were posted online. I had the opportunity to create different multimedia projects. I also dabbled in creating graphics, but I was horrible. I know my limits. I absolutely loved that job on the web team!
I went on to work as a Digital Media Manager and Online Editor in two more newsrooms – both newspapers. It was an exciting time. Although there was some resistance to our efforts. Some reporters thought they would be scooped if they put their stories online first. We had to constantly remind them that we’re all on the same team. It was all the same news product. It took a while to convince everyone that we were there to help them. We had all kinds of cool tools to play around with like content management systems, online video, apps, streaming, etc. So how does a person who pushed so hard for the public to adopt these things become a laggard? I’m still not sure myself.
I remember a time when smartphones were a new thing. All the reporters in the newsroom were being required to get one. The newspaper was even helping to offset the costs. But I was holding on to my old flip-phone. Why did I need a smartphone? Those were for reporters who needed them in the field to take pictures or video clips. Time went by and then my digital team was getting them too, which in hindsight, made perfect sense. So I marched into the executive editor’s office one day and told her, “I might as well get a smartphone too.” But I said it as if I had a choice. But the executive editor played along and I got a phone just like every other person in the newsroom. Again, in hindsight, it must have looked awful for the digital media manager to not become an early adopter of this new initiative. But by having the same tool, I was able to speak the same language. Expectations were also set and by me having the same device, I would know if those expectations were too much or if they could be met.
Because I had finally embraced this new technology, I was able to teach others who might have been a little apprehensive about using the smartphone. The older members of the newsroom would sometimes require a little guidance and I was able to help. I believe that allowed them to become more confident and use the technology even more. I was actually helping my own digital team (and our readers) because we were able to receive information quicker so that we could share on our website. The confidence spread throughout our newsroom and it became the new normal.
When smartphones were first released, they had a manual keyboard. I preferred that because it was similar to typing on a computer keyboard. It just made sense. The day came when the smartphone as I knew it would change forever. I have never been the one to get a new phone every time the latest model was released. Blame it on the laggard in me. I never gave into the peer pressure from colleagues who had the latest and greatest phone. The advertisements didn’t influence me either. So needless to say I reached a point where I was using a phone that was on it’s last leg. I had no choice but to get a new phone. But I had one simple request. I had to have my keyboard on the phone. How could I possibly send texts or emails without a keyboard? I had also heard terrible stories about the auto-correct feature. I did NOT want that. I could spell check myself or so I thought.
I marched into the Verizon Wireless store one day, asking for a new phone. The sales representative said no problem! I told her I just had one request – I need a keyboard. She looked at me and politely shook her head. She said, “No ma’am. They don’t make them like that anymore.” At that point, I contemplated not even upgrading. But I knew my phone wouldn’t hold out any longer. The representative grabbed a phone and showed me all the cool new features I would have and so “Amanda the laggard” had to give in. She made me understand why I would want to use the new model and how easy it would be. She even assured me that I could return it if I didn’t like it. I’m sure I was one of the last to buy into the virtual keyboard. But I did and now I can’t live without it, auto-correct and all.