By his own account, Andy Weber, CEO of Farm Journal Media since 2000, has been in the b-to-b media game for a long time. “I started in this business as a peddler,” he said.
Weber, however, isn't afraid of change, and neither is Farm Journal Media. Despite having a flagship brand, Farm Journal, that dates back to the 1870s, the company has a rich heritage of innovation.
Farm Journal Media is famously a leader in database management, which it uses to deliver customized publications to farmers, making sure, for instance, to bring content on corn to corn farmers. The company has also embraced integrated media, enabling advertisers to reach an agricultural audience via print, Internet, events and television.
As CEO, Weber has fostered this heritage of innovation. “The editors and other employees here, they look at themselves as caretakers for this 134-year-old brand,” he said.
They're not preserving that brand as a museum piece; they're making sure Farm Journal Media remains full of vigor into the future. Earlier this year, the company made an equity investment in CommodityUpdate, a mobile media company that delivers agricultural commodity prices to mobile phones. Agricultural marketers are sponsoring subscriptions to the service to reach farmers.
Weber said Farm Journal Media increased its revenue about 20% last year and expects to do the same this year. He said 80% of last year's revenue increase was generated from products introduced since 2008.
Two of the biggest game-changers at the company are the Farm Journal Legacy Project and Farm Journal Agricultural Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit. The Farm Journal Legacy Project, funded by grants from DuPont, government agencies and others, is an advocacy project addressing the lack of succession planning among family farmers.
The Farm Journal Agricultural Foundation includes, among its projects, Farmers Feeding the World, which has a goal of raising millions of dollars annually to fight world hunger. Weber said one of the most effective tools for doing that is spreading Western farming methods to increase yields.
Weber sees this effort as a noble cause, not something that will merely help the Farm Journal brand. This spring, he visited Afghanistan and Iraq on behalf of Farmers Feeding the World. He returned convinced of the charity's capability to improve the world, not just the business.
“This year, I've spent half my time on this, and you wouldn't have to pay me to do this,” Weber said. “It's exciting. It's all new. It's never been done before, and there's no rulebook on how to do it.” —S.C.