GETTING INSIDE THE RURAL ENTHSIAST'S HOME
Editor's Note: Marketers may find it difficult to get inside the homes of ruralpolitans, a relatively new market segment in agriculture, to capture their attention and, ultimately, their buying power. A few surefire tactics for marketers to reach the ever-growing rural lifestyle segment are through print magazines and certain broadcast media. Here we feature several prominent publications â€" Acreage Life, Hobby Farms and Living the Country Life â€" and RFD-TV, a national television network dedicated to rural America. Each has its own unique mission and content, but ultimately strives to serve the members of the rural lifestyle segment that marketers are hoping to reach.
"We're creating a presence that is attractive, practical and personable," says Acreage Life managing editor Sheila Robertson. "We want to be indispensable to acreage owners, who will look to the publication for advice on tackling the projects they envision on their properties."
Acreage Life, the first magazine of its kind in Canada, taps into the interests of "country converts," a growing demographic throughout North America. The target audience of upscale acreage owners consists mainly of people who live on small properties while commuting to jobs in nearby cities.
The inaugural issue in April 2005 brimmed with features on choosing fencing materials and shopping for telescopes, tractors and all-terrain vehicles. There was advice on burning wood, planting ornamental grasses, coping with garden pests, attracting birds and more.
By all accounts, the 63,000 acreage owners receiving the magazine free, in targeted postal clusters in Ontario and Canada's Western provinces, are delighted. In addition, there are already 2,400 addressed subscribers and 1,700 copies on newsstands. There will be four issues this year; six are planned for 2006.
Readers are saying Acreage Life is on track with its features, including columns on nature, food, gardening and humor. Regular departments focus on the care of horses and other animals, water and utilities, building projects and antiques.
Access to this select audience of acreage owners is an advantage for marketers, including those offering agricultural products and services. The magazine's readers (among them readers of its Web site at www.acreagelife.ca) are established, educated people with diverse interests. They are willing and able to purchase what they need to enhance their vision of country living. Many are involved in home construction or renovations and garden projects. Others are building barns, workshops and gazebos. They may be in the market for sports and leisure equipment in addition to lawn mowers and small tractors.
As with farmers on larger properties, these acreage families value rural life. They enjoy keeping animals and growing food, but on a smaller scale and purely for the fun of it.
Hobby farmers are rural enthusiasts who live on multiple-acre properties and are active with their land. Whether they raise livestock, grow crops or simply enjoy their beautifully self-landscaped grounds, hobby farmers are firmly rooted in country life.
Hobby Farms magazine (HF) is working to serve the rural enthusiasts. Founded in 2001 by Fancy Publications (now Bowtie Inc.), Hobby Farms magazine was produced twice a year and sold at newsstands and farm and feed stores. In 2003 the first subscription was sold, and today more than 65,000 readers buy the magazine and share it with family and friends, creating a total audience of more than 195,000 six times a year.
HF's typical reader lives on acreage outside a major metropolitan area and commutes to work, is 42 years old, is married with children and earns more than $80,000 per year.
"Hobby Farms has always been produced with the active enthusiast in mind â€" people who embrace country living for the hard work, fresh air and life lessons learned there," says Karen Keb Acevedo, editor. "These active enthusiasts are always looking for something more to do and are always willing to try new pursuits. If it doesn't succeed in terms of profit, at least they're doing what they love to do, which offers rewards above and beyond monetary gain."
HF's reader audience is much more diverse than its name implies. "From small-scale farmers working the land for their livelihood to pocket farmers looking to make money from their part-time farming endeavors to hobby farmers who have a passion for farm life and finance their lifestyle by working off-farm, the common denominator among its readers is their passion for living in the country and working with the land," says Ben Warner, advertising sales director.
The editorial is focused on providing how-to information to successfully manage the hobby farm. Topics include equine and animal products, livestock health and husbandry, crop growing, agricultural opportunities and trends, equipment and maintenance products, hardware, lawn and garden tools, power equipment, work clothing and footwear, recipes, real estate and financial guidance including business plans, marketing and tax advice. Hobby Farms also provides a sense of community with multiple reader question-and-answer columns.
Rapid growth in paid circulation continues to come from word of mouth and monthly direct mail, as well as from the magazine's being sold in more than 1,800 farm-feed and supply stores nationwide. Recently, Tractor Supply Company indicated that Hobby Farms is the best-selling magazine on its newsstand.
Living the Country Life, a publication of Successful Farming and Meredith Corporation, inspires affluent rural homeowners with ideas to maximize enjoyment from their place in the country. The Living the Country Life brand includes a magazine, Web site, TV program and data base to provide a multimedia solution designed to help marketers engage and interact with this growing segment of the rural market.
The audience for Living the Country Life is people who deliberately choose to live in the country. Many of them commute to professional careers in town. Household income for the average Living the Country Life reader is $75,000, which is 35 percent above the average U.S. household, while nearly 27 percent of Living the Country Life readers earn more than $100,000 per year.
The average age of Living the Country Life readers is 45 to 50 years old. They are self-proclaimed do-it-yourselfers who take great pride in the way their places look. Both male and female members of the family are very involved with their acreage, including the purchasing decisions. Both genders are found to be avid readers and viewers of Living the Country Life.
In addition, Living the Country Life readers are passionate about their lifestyle choice in the country. They do not consider themselves "hobby farmers." This rural segment's place in the country provides them more elbow room, a higher quality of life, a greater sense of security and the ability to enjoy all the amenities of the rural outdoors.
Living the Country Life strives to help readers find fulfillment and fun from their rural lifestyle. Key editorial topics that interest Living the Country Life readers are machinery and equipment, lawns and gardens, buildings, pastures, ponds, streams, wildlife, natural habitat and outdoor entertaining.
The Living the Country Life magazine mails to 200,000 rural homeowners four times each year. In addition to short vignettes which aired in 2004, a new half-hour "Living the Country Life" television program will debut this fall on RFD-TV.
"The prime time and 'live' interactive opportunities make RFD-TV a different medium from any other option that has ever been available to marketers of agricultural products and services," says Mike Hansen, executive vice president and director of national sales for RFD-TV Communications Inc.
RFD-TV "LIVE" interviews guests on specific subjects and allows viewer call-in questions to be answered during the broadcast. In 2005 this format has been used by John Deere to educate first-time tractor buyers and small acreage owners, by NCBA to discuss trade and border issues directly with cattlemen, by eMerge Interactive to announce an electronic cattle identification program, including sponsored guests on the set from Archer Daniels Midland, McDonald's Corporation and Superior Livestock Auction, and also by the National FFA Organization to communicate and reconnect with members, alumni and the general public with the latest news from FFA and its national officers.
Extensive rural lifestyle programming from around the country is aired on RFD-TV each day, including "Living the Country Life" segments, which were produced by Meredith Corporation and sponsored by Deere in 2004-05. These three-minute vignettes focus on a different rural living "tip" in each episode and are hosted by Betsy Freese, editor of Living the Country Life. In addition, Tarter Gate, through The Idea Farm, produces similar vignettes and tips for the horse owner, which air in "Horses," as well as "Pork Board Minutes," featuring representatives of the National Pork Board who address a variety of subjects.
"RFD-TV's rapid growth, and the unprecedented response received by our existing programmers and sponsors, is continuing to fuel further program expansion," continues Hansen. "With DIRECTV announcing a record 505,000 net new subscribers in the first quarter of 2005, and new results from the Leichtman Research Group showing DBS now exceeds cable penetration in rural America for the first time, the growth of this rural network to better serve rural homeowners shows no sign of slowing down. Marketers are limited only by their own imaginations." AM