NEW WORDS FOR A NEW MEDIA
by Steve Mays
Blogs, streaming, mp3, RSS - new words from the world of new media. What do they mean for "old media"? Most of us understand and are comfortable with our daily newspaper, our favorite magazines, our local TV and radio stations. They've been part of our daily lives. No learning curve.
New media is more of a moving target. The Web, video games, Tivo, iPods and "wireless devices" (once called cell phones) all offer new and powerful ways to communicate, while rewriting many of the fundamental principles of marketing.
What does it mean to be a "radio network" when the entire world is becoming a network that nobody does - or can - own and control? Despite this, Brownfield, Jefferson City, Mo., is finding that radio and the Web are a great fit.
NEW MEDIA SALES AND MARKETING
Radio is still the most personal medium - powerful and effective for advertisers because of its "benign intrusiveness." Combining radio with the Web results in a whole much greater than the sum of its parts. Every day Brownfield is discovering new ways to use the Web to help tell advertisers' stories. While some companies outsource their online efforts, Brownfield hosts its Web sites and does all of its own audio streaming because turnaround time is so important. Like radio, the Web is now.
While Brownfield might use only a 20-second sound bite from a 10-minute interview in a network ag news reports, it now has the option of posting the full, unedited interview online. Before the Web, the network might have passed on long-form programs because the timing made it difficult for radio network affiliates to clear an hour-long program, regardless of the importance. Now Brownfield streams such events (live and archived) and uplinks them for network affiliates.
Short for Web log and nothing more mysterious than an online journal, a blog is a Web site made up of frequent, short articles (posts) with links to related articles and Web sites. Whether you view blogs as "citizen journalism" or one more example of "personal publishing," they are real, and anyone in the business of publishing or communication should make a point of exploring this phenomenon.
FarmPolicy.com is the creation of stay-at-home dad Keith Good and features "news analysis and commentary regarding U.S. farm policy." Good gets up at 4 a.m. to surf the Web for news for an hour or so and then "blogs" for a couple of hours. Not a job, just a labor of love. Is anybody reading what he writes? Do a Google search on "farm policy" and see which Web site tops the list.
BrownfieldAgNews.com also Is using blogs in a variety of ways. Steve Kopperud blogs on agriculture and food issues, and Brownfield Farm Director Cyndi Young will blog her adventures on an upcoming trip to South America, South Africa and Australia.
RSS (REALLY SIMPLE SYNDICATION)
RSS is easier to do than to explain. In simplest terms, it's a way to syndicate content from a Web site to a newsreader (or aggregator) or another Web site. First used by bloggers to let readers know when a Web site had been updated, RSS is increasingly showing up on news sites. For example, you can "subscribe" to any one of a dozen or so news "channels" on BrownfieldAgNews.com. Your newsreader or your Web site checks the site periodically, and if there's a new story, a link and brief abstract is pulled back to your newsreader or Web site.
There is no e-mail involved, which is what excites so many about RSS. As companies and individuals fight a never-ending battle with spam, RSS offers a way to deliver content that circumvents the problems associated with bulk e-mailing.
Brownfield's daily newsletter, Agriculture Today, is delivered by e-mail but, in the near future, will also be available as an RSS feed.
While thousands of people visit BrownfieldAgNews.com every month, many times that number listen to one of the 220 affiliated radio stations. The Web allows the network to extend its relationship with those listeners (and the radio stations). Technologies such as RSS make it easy for radio affiliates to add Brownfield content to their Web sites, just as these affiliates have added it to their programming line-ups for 30 years. Brownfield content can also be shared with advertisers who need fresh, relevant content on their Web sites.
Old media vs. new media in agriculture? Something new is evolving that promises to combine the best of both. AM
Steve Mays is vice president of Web solutions for Brownfield.