INNOVATION + EXPERIENCE
FARM JOURNAL MEDIA CREATES FIRST-CLASS COMBINATION WITH ACQUISITION OF 'U.S. FARM REPORT'
by Bekah Reddick, Editor
The most recent buzz in agriculture marketing circles isn't only about Asian soybean rust and planting dates, but also about the latest acquisitions, specifically the purchase of "U.S. Farm Report" by Farm Journal Media, Philadelphia.
In mid-April Farm Journal Media announced the acquisition of "U.S. Farm Report … Town and Country Living" from Tribune Entertainment Company ? a move that has many people talking about the further consolidation of agriculture media. Some might say that the deal gives marketers fewer choices in the area of agriculture television advertising, but Farm Journal Media executives say this marriage provides marketers very unique and far-reaching media packages.
Launched in 1975, "U.S. Farm Report" is the longest-running agricultural television news program. The 60-minute weekly format includes top stories, high-profile interviews, an ag-focused weather and markets report and a variety of rural lifestyle features, plus two of the best-known broadcasters in the industry: Max Armstrong and Orion Samuelson.
Combining this new offering with "AgDay," a daily 30-minute early-morning news, markets and weather program hosted by Scott Kinrade, and "Weekend Marketplace," a weekly commodity markets program hosted by Al Pell with tapings often held at the Chicago Board of Trade, Farm Journal Electronic Media, the broadcast division of Farm Journal Media, now provides an even greater opportunity for marketers to reach their audiences six days a week.
Beyond the frequency aspect, these combined properties are now reaching approximately 1 million households. According to Neilson Media Research, "U.S. Farm Report" alone reaches 750,000 households each week. The show's network of more than 190 stations, including Tribune's 26 owned and operated stations and WGN Super-Station, collectively delivers 97 percent household coverage. In addition, on average, 260,000 households view "AgDay" each morning.
According to Jeff Pence, president of Farm Journal Electronic Media, "Part of the beauty of this acquisition is its complement to our existing shows. We can create reach and frequency packages with this combination that are ? quite frankly ? second to none in agriculture."
You may be curious about whether "U.S. Farm Report" will see significant changes under new ownership. To the contrary, Farm Journal Media CEO Andy Weber says he doesn't plan to fix what isn't broken. "Not only is the 'U.S. Farm Report' program legendary, the viewership is high, and frankly, we didn't buy the program to fix it up. We like the editorial focus on agribusiness and rural lifestyle. Change is never out of the question, but we bought the program because it is strong and it complements us perfectly. This program fits into our portfolio like hand in glove," Weber explains.
But how do the personalities of "U.S. Farm Report" feel about this buyout? Max Armstrong, co-host of the program, says he and Orion Samuelson are "delighted that the show is going into good hands."
Armstrong explains that Tribune has always had many other interests on its radar and is trying to reach a younger, more urban audience. "Tribune has many shows, but the majority of those products couldn't be farther away from what we do. But Farm Journal is very serious about agriculture and agriculture media," he says. "They clearly demonstrate this in everything they do."
With a combined 73 years of broadcasting experience, Armstrong and Samuelson are devoted to serving the commercial farmer, a mission which Armstrong claims "dovetails well with the Farm Journal mission."
A PACKAGE DEAL
The addition of "U.S. Farm Report" further broadens and strengthens Farm Journal Media's integrated media portfolio. Combining print, broadcast, newsletters, Internet, special events and database services, Farm Journal Media already offers clients a wealth of marketing opportunities.
Pence says the deal offers advertisers a real competitive advantage. "Farm Journal Media is bringing a great multimedia solution to clients and agencies. First, there is the enormous reach that we can offer. 'U.S. Farm Report's' reach of over 750,000 households is clearly dominant and it complements 'AgDay' and 'Weekend Marketplace' perfectly with a six-day-a-week offering for advertising messages," he says. "Second, we are able to offer different creative packages that include Farm Journal Media's editorial platforms in addition to our broadcasters' expertise."
This concept of creative packaging with both the editorial and broadcast divisions isn't new. In fact, a decade or so ago the tables were turned and Tribune was the owner of Farm Journal Media. During that time, broadcaster Max Armstrong recalls writing columns for the Farm Journal publications and working closely with its many editors. He says it makes sense for Farm Journal to capitalize on the synergies that exist between the print and broadcast divisions.
"What distinguishes us from the rest is our innovation. By taking a successful program and integrating it with other products, we can provide totally new innovation in agriculture media," says Pence.
Media buyers are also taking a hard look at how they can leverage off of this acquisition and receive the most bang for the media buck. Ted Haller, vice president and integrated media director for Osborn & Barr Communications, says most media buyers will be looking at this announcement from the perspective of potential savings.
"A media person is looking at the integrated package, which includes broadcast, Web and print, and is saying, 'I should be getting a better deal than in the past even though I am spending more total money with Farm Journal,' " Haller explains. "We look at the total synergy, not just in dollars and cents, but the whole package that is being offered to our clients."
Haller also thinks this move may be an overall positive one for agriculture television. He says, "Historically, many national ag advertisers haven't embraced ag TV because they are focused on the local bent. But research shows ag TV is doing better than ever. This move simply strengthens 'U.S. Farm Report' and adds resources to an already good product. I hope the portfolio that Farm Journal is now offering opens more doors to advertisers and ag TV."
PRODUCTION, DISTRIBUTION, SALES
Pence explains that there are three main components of the deal with Tribune. It involves the show's production, distribution and sales.
Going back to the "if it isn't broken, don't fix it" mantra, production of "U.S. Farm Report" will continue to be handled by High-Yield Productions in Chicago, with oversight and management by Brian Conrady, Farm Journal Electronic Media's vice president of production.
In addition, Farm Journal recognizes Tribune's expertise in national distribution; thus, Tribune's distribution relationship will remain intact as the company becomes a vendor of Farm Journal Electronic Media. "Part of what we got out of the deal is Tribune's expert services. The agreement calls for Tribune to continue to carry 'U.S. Farm Report' on its owned and operated stations," Weber explains.
The only major change in these three areas is the advertising sales responsibility, which was immediately incorporated into the multimedia portfolio by the FJEM sales team, headed by Tony Behr, Farm Journal Electronic Media's vice president of sales. In addition, Mike Adinamis, "U.S. Farm Report's" executive producer and vice president of sales under Tribune's ownership, is working with Farm Journal through a transition period and perhaps beyond, says Weber.
The only other noticeable change that some may see from time to time is the crossover of content among the various programs. Armstrong explains that all of the hosts and production teams attend numerous meetings to provide current content to viewers and it only makes sense to cover these as a team.
"In the past, we have used only a fraction of the footage from a given meeting. Perhaps in this relationship we will have the opportunity to use much more footage between all of the programs," he says. "In addition, there is no doubt that I will be asking additional and different types of questions during my interviews in order to maximize those opportunities for all of the Farm Journal Media properties."
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the reasons why this partnership makes good business sense. Innovative media integration opportunities, outstanding reach and frequency, as well as employing the most recognized broadcasters in agriculture television add up to what could be a media powerhouse in our industry.
Instead of reveling in his company's recent buzz, Weber unassumingly says the acquisition of the long-standing program is just another addition to Farm Journal's already extensive toolbox. "This is but one more reason and one more way for marketers to turn to Farm Journal Media first for their communications solutions," he concludes.
Many agree that the purchase of "U.S. Farm Report" along with the addition of Armstrong and Samuelson's notoriety and expertise is a smart move for Farm Journal Media. But only time will tell if this new combination of experience and innovation will work together to pay big dividends for marketers and Farm Journal Media alike. AM