Hi, I’m Lesley, and there are some things you should know about me. I am a full-fledged agriculture geek, a wannabe history geek, and a disciple of media. These things seem pretty unrelated on the surface. But a little exercise I did for a client brought them all together and demonstrated that even in today’s fast changing media environment, some things just don’t change.
I first became acquainted with the ag industry over a decade ago as a media planner for some major ag brands. As an ag newbie I knew nothing of the magnitude of media outlets that were available, all catering to the needs of farmers across the world. There are newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations and websites specializing in all different types of growing. It was a lot to master. However, it wasn’t until many years later, when I compiled a history of ag media for a client, that I really came to realize what a long and colorful history ag media had, and that many distinctly consumer media outlets were (to use a bad ag pun) rooted in agricultural journalism. There is a lot of history to cover here, across different media types, but for this part of the story, let’s focus on print.
From the dawn of printed media as we know it, ag was there. Ag pubs were easily one of the first B2B categories. As far back as 1588, publications were made about agricultural subjects. This makes sense given the occupation of farming was dominant. Ag journalism itself began in the early 1800s as evidenced by the release of Agricultural Museum in 1810, the first publication solely devoted to farming, and then American Farmer in 1819, the first to have national reach. American Agriculturalist, a publication still around today as part of the Farm Progress Group, launched 1842, followed by a string of regional publications.
By the early 1900s, more publications began to follow. One publication found, even today, on any Midwest farm family table is Successful Farming, just a little magazine published by Edwin T. Meredith in 1902 – the same Meredith family that launched Better Homes & Gardens in 1924 and later formed the same corporation that just bought Time, Inc. Another major consumer publisher rooted in Ag media is our beloved Southern Living, which first began as a supplement to The Progressive Farmer until its launch in 1966.
Interesting historical tidbits aside, it’s impressive to see these 100-year-old magazines, as well as printed media itself, still thriving today and regarded as a primary resource for farmers, despite the emergence of digital channels. This could be attributed to the fact that younger farmers (under the age of 45) are actually the ones using agricultural magazines more frequently than their older counterparts1. This seems an opposite trend compared to what we see in B2C or even other B2B industry media. Sure, there have been merges and purges between publishers along the way due to a shrinking audience, but the ag mags are still maintaining the relevancy they had a century ago.
1 Meredith Agrimedia: Farmer’s Use of Media Study 2017