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Everett M. Rogers (March 6, 1931 - October 21, 2004) was a sociologist, communication scholar, writer, and teacher. He is best known for originating the diffusion of innovations theory and for introducing the term early adopter.

Early Life

Rogers was born on the family Pinehurst Farm in Carroll, Iowa, in 1931. His father loved electromechanical farm innovations, but was highly resistant to biological–chemical innovations, so he resisted adopting the new hybrid seed corn, even though it yielded 25% more crop and was resistant to drought. During the Iowa drought of 1936, while the hybrid seed corn stood tall on the neighbor’s farm, however, the crop on the Rogers’ farm wilted. Rogers’ father was finally convinced.

Rogers had no plans to attend university until a school teacher drove him and some classmates to Ames, Iowa to visit Iowa State University. Rogers decided to pursue a degree in agriculture there. He then served in the Korean War for two years. He returned to Iowa State University to earn a Ph.D. in sociology and statistics in 1957.

Academic Research

Iowa State University in those years (the 1950s) had a great intellectual tradition in agriculture and in rural sociology. Numerous agricultural innovations were generated by scientists at land grant universities and at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Rural sociologists, including Rogers’ doctoral advisor George Beal, were conducting pioneering studies on the diffusion of these innovations, like the high-yielding hybrid seed corn, chemical fertilizers, and weed sprays. Questions were being asked about why some farmers adopted these innovations while others did not, and also about why it takes such a long time for these seemingly advantageous innovations to diffuse.

These questions about innovation diffusion, including the strong resistances and how they could be overcome, formed the core of Rogers' graduate work at ISU. His doctoral dissertation was a study of the diffusion of weed spray, and involved interviewing more than 200 farmers about their adoption decisions.

He also reviewed existing studies of the diffusion of all kinds of innovations—agricultural,educational, medical, marketing, and so on. He found several similarities in these diverse studies. For instance, innovations tend to diffuse following an S-curve of adoption.

In 1962, Rogers publishes this review of literature chapter, greatly expanded, enhanced, and refined, as the now-legendary book Diffusion of Innovations. The book provided a comprehensive theory of how innovations diffused, or spread, in a social system. The book’s appeal was global. Its timing was uncanny. National governments in countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America were wrestling with how to diffuse agricultural, family planning, and other social change innovations in their newly independent countries. Here was a theory that was useful.

Rogers published 30 books, translated into 15 languages, and more than 500 articles, in a 47-year academic career. He held faculty positions at Ohio State University (1957-1963), Michigan State University (1964-1973), and the University of Michigan (1973-1975). Rogers was the Janet M. Peck Professor of International Communication at Stanford University (1975-1985) and the Walter H. Annenberg Professor and Associate Dean for Doctoral Studies in the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California (1985-1993). He was Distinguished Professor at the University of New Mexico (1993-2004) and chaired the UNM Department of Communication and Journalism from 1993 to 1997. Rogers was instrumental in establishing the UNM Ph.D. Program in Communication with a special focus on intercultural communication. He was also Visiting Professor of Health Communication at Johns Hopkins University.

In total, Rogers taught at six U.S. universities and six universities in Europe, the Far East, and Latin America including the National University of Colombia in Bogota, the Universite de Paris in France, and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. He conducted research in Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Korea, Thailand, Mexico, Nigeria, and Tanzania.

Diffusion of Innovations


The diffusion of innovations according to Rogers. With successive groups of consumers adopting the new technology (shown in blue), its market share (yellow) will eventually reach the saturation level.

When the first edition (1962) of Diffusion of Innovations was published, Rogers was an assistant professor of rural sociology at Ohio State University. He was only 30 years old but was becoming a world-renowned academic figure. In the mid-2000s, The Diffusion of Innovations became the second-most-cited book in the social sciences. (Arvind Singhal: Introducing Professor Everett M. Rogers, 47th Annual Research Lecturer, University of New Mexico)[1]

Rogers proposes that adopters of any new innovation or idea can be categorized as innovators (2.5%), early adopters (13.5%), early majority (34%), late majority (34%) and laggards (16%), based on the mathematically-based Bell curve. These categories, based on standard deviations from the mean of the normal curve, provide a common language for innovation researchers. Each adopter's willingness and ability to adopt an innovation depends on their awareness, interest, evaluation, trial, and adoption. People can fall into different categories for different innovations—a farmer might be an early adopter of mechanical innovations, but a late majority adopter of biological innovations or VCRs.

When graphed, the rate of adoption formed what came to typify the Diffusion of Innovations model, an “s-shaped curve.” (S curve) The graph essentially shows a cumulative percentage of adopters over time – slow at the start, more rapid as adoption increases, then leveling off until only a small percentage of laggards have not adopted. (Rogers Diffusion Of Innovations 1983)

His research and work became widely accepted in communications and technology adoption studies, and also found its way into a variety of other social science studies. Geoffrey Moore's Crossing the Chasm drew from Rogers in explaining how and why technology companies succeed. Rogers was also able to relate his communications research to practical health problems, including hygiene, family planning, cancer prevention, and drunk driving.

Entertainment Education

In the early 1990s Rogers turned his attention to the field of Entertainment-Education. With funding from Population Communications International[2] he evaluated a radio drama designed to improve public health in Tanzania called Twende na Wakati (Let’s Go With the Times). [3] With Arvind Singhal of Ohio University he co-wrote Entertainment Education: A Communication Strategy for Social Change.

To commemorate his contributions to the field, the University of Southern California Norman Lear Center established the Everett M. Rogers Award for Achievement in Entertainment-Education, which recognizes outstanding practice or research in the field of entertainment education. [4]

Later Life

In 1995, Rogers moved to the University of New Mexico, having become fond of Albuquerque while stationed at an airbase during the Korean War. He helped UNM launch a doctoral program in communication. He was Distinguished Professor Emeritus at UNM.

Rogers suffered from kidney disease and retired from UNM in the summer of 2004. He died just a few months later, survived by his wife, Dr. Corinne Shefner-Rogers, and two sons: David Rogers and Everett King.


  • Rogers, E. M. (1960). Social change in rural society: A textbook in rural sociology. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.
  • Rogers, E. M. (1962). Diffusion of innovations. New York: Free Press.
  • Rogers, E. M. (1969). Modernization among peasants: The impact of communication. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
  • Rogers, E. M. (1973). Communication strategies for family planning. New York: Free Press.
  • Rogers, E. M. (Ed.). (1976). Communication and development: Critical perspectives. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
  • Rogers, E. M. (1983). Diffusion of innovations (3rd ed.). New York: Free Press.
  • Rogers, E. M. (1986). Communication technology: The new media in society. New York: Free Press.
  • Rogers, E. M. (1994). A history of communication study: A biographical approach. New York: Free Press.
  • Rogers, E. M. (1995). Diffusion of innovations (4th ed.). New York: Free Press.
  • Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.). New York: Free Press.
  • Rogers, E. M. (2008). The fourteenth paw: Growing up on an Iowa farm in the 1930s—A memoir. Singapore: Asian Media Information and Communication Center.
  • Rogers, E. M., & Agarwala-Rogers, R. (1976). Communication in organizations. New York: Free Press.
  • Rogers, E. M., & Balle, F. (Eds.). (1985). The media revolution in America and Western Europe. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
  • Rogers, E. M., & Bartlit, N. R. (2005). Silent voices of World War II: When sons of the Land of Enchantment met sons of the Land of the Rising Sun. Santa Fe, NM: Sunstone Press.
  • Rogers, E. M., & Burdge, R. J. (1972). Social change in rural societies (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Rogers, E. M., Burdge, R. J., Korshing, P. F., & Donnermeyer, J. F. (1988). Social change in rural societies: An introduction to rural sociology (3rd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Rogers, E. M., & Chaffee, S. H. (1994). Communication and journalism from “Daddy” Bleyer to Wilbur Schramm: A palimpsest (Journalism Monographs, No. 148). Columbia, SC: Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.
  • Rogers, E. M., Dearing, J. W., & Chang, S. (1991). AIDS in the 1980s: The agenda-setting process for a public issue (Journalism Monographs, No. 126). Columbia, SC: Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.
  • Rogers, E. M., & Kincaid, D. L. (1981). Communication networks: Toward a new paradigm for research. New York: Free Press.
  • Rogers, E. M., & Larsen, J. K. (1984). Silicon Valley fever: Growth of high-technology culture. New York: Basic Books.
  • Rogers, E. M., & Shoemaker, F. F. (1971). Communication of innovations: A cross-cultural approach (2nd ed. of Diffusion of innovations). New York: Free Press.
  • Rogers, E. M., & Solomon, D. S. (1975). Traditional midwives as family planning communicators in Asia. Honolulu, HI: East-West Communication Institute.
  • Rogers, E. M., & Steinfatt, T. M. (1999). Intercultural communication. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.
  • Backer, T. E., Rogers, E. M., & Sopory, P. (1992). Designing health communication campaigns: What works? Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
  • Backer, T. E., & Rogers, E. M. (Eds.). (1993). Organizational aspects of health communication campaigns: What works? Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
  • Dearing, J. W., & Rogers, E. M. (1996). Agenda-setting. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Gibson, D. V., & Rogers, E. M. (1994). R&D collaboration on trial: The microelectronics and computer technology corporation. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
  • Singhal, A., Cody, M. J., Rogers, E. M., & Sabido, M. (Eds.). (2004). Entertainment-education and social change: History, research, and practice. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Singhal, A., & Dearing, J. W. (Eds.). (2006). Communication of innovations: A journey with Ev Rogers. New Delhi: Sage.
  • Singhal, A., & Rogers, E. M. (1999). Entertainment education: A communication strategy for social change. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Singhal, A., & Rogers, E. M. (2001). India's communication revolution: From bullock carts to cyber marts. New Delhi: Sage.
  • Singhal, A., & Rogers, E. M. (2003). Combating AIDS: Communication strategies in action. New Delhi: Sage.
  • Williams, F., Rice, R. E., & Rogers, E. M. (1988). Research methods and the new media. New York: Free Press.

See also

External References

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