Top Trades 2007: 'Farm Journal'

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Farm Journal, the flagship of Farm Journal Media, is one of the oldest trade titles, dating back to 1877. It is also one of the most sophisticated, deploying a 360-degree media strategy that could be a model for other b-to-b media companies confronting the seismic changes in marketing communications.

The magazine won American Business Media's Grand Neal Award last year for its subject-related series of articles: "Asian Soybean Rust Takes Root in the U.S."

The kudos "reinforced our image of editorial quality that we've had for a long time and gave us something to brag about," said Steve Custer, exec VP-publisher of Farm Journal and its sibling publication Top Producer.

Custer also has plenty of marketing assets to brag about. He said that, on average, clients bundle together seven or eight products that are part of Farm Journal's extensive portfolio. These include the monthly magazine, multiple online vehicles and more than 40 annual events. The company's broadcast division, Farm Journal Electronic Media, includes "AgDay" which is syndicated to 40 local TV markets throughout the country, and "U.S. Farm Report," an hourlong TV program that runs on Tribune Co.-owned broadcast stations.

There's also the annual Farm Journal Forum in Washington, D.C., which attracts about 150 attendees, including agricultural policymakers and C-level executives. The magazine repurposes the forum's content for editorial features.

"The bulk of our spending is still in print," Custer said, noting that ad pages in 2006 were up about 2%, to 805 from 790. (Circulation declined to 432,000, from 440,000, because of consolidation in the marketplace.)

"We've always had a reputation of delivering firsts in print," Custer said. For instance, the magazine has started to embed ad-sponsored CDs in its cover.

Last year, the magazine launched its "Corn Navigator Series." The feature, which ran for five consecutives issues, educated readers on 10 key steps to maximize corn crops. "That was something advertisers knew corn farmers would read and wanted to be around," Custer said.

Because Farm Journal's database runs so deep, Custer said he typically distributes 1,500 to 2,000 different versions of the publication. "Advertisers that really want to target a product will pay a high CPM to do that."

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