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Agriculture sector weathers economic storm

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As exec VP-publishing for Farm Journal Media, Steve Custer has overall responsibility for Farm Journal and Top Producer magazines. Custer joined the company in 1998 as VP-director of marketing for Farm Journal Information Resources and has served in his current position since July 2000. BtoB recently spoke to Custer about the best ways to reach an audience of farmers. BtoB: What industry trends are worth noting this year? Custer: As you might expect, the general economy has had some effect on the agriculture industry, but overall the ag industry has been very healthy compared to the general economy. The effect on the advertising spending levels has been that the nonendemic types of products, like trucks, have been down. Everyone has seen what's gone on in the general economy with the car companies, and so their spending has been down; but overall the agriculture economy has been very good. It's even been on the upside in categories like seed, because there are a lot of new [seed] traits that are coming on, and a lot of spending going on from that standpoint. Farm income is down from the last couple years—the last couple of years were record years—but historically it's still fairly high. So that's probably going to influence some of the spending in the ag equipment categories. In general, though, as I look out over the landscape of all b-to-b, ag is in real good shape. BtoB: What should marketers keep in mind as they target this audience? Custer: Our market tends to lag some of the other b-to-b markets, especially as it comes to new technology. Part of the reason for that has been that not all of our audience is on a computer for a large part of the day ... They're not at their desks 24/7, and they're not all on broadband. Social networks and mobile are starting to make inroads. It's not on a large level, but we're starting to see marketing going on in those arenas. We use YouTube and Twitter on our Web site, and when we do an event now we'll often interview people onsite and have it on the Web site that day. ... The Web has grown a lot in our category and continues to grow, as it does in other categories. The cross-use of content is growing tremendously. Not all advertisers are there yet, but more and more are using print, Web and television. At the same time, print is still incredibly strong in this category. .... It remains the stalwart b-to-b media for agriculture. —M.E.M.
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