UPDATES FROM THE MEDIA
Editor's note: We invited media covering the rural lifestyle markets to provide updates on their audiences and services. Following are comments from those who chose to participate.
RURAL LIFE MAGAZINE
Rural Life magazine, published quarterly by Farm Progress Cos., serves an audience of 125,000 affluent rural, multiple-acre homeowners. Its editorial package includes a range of topics in a seasonal thinking-ahead format to guide its readers to a greater enjoyment of their rural lifestyles.
"We want to inspire our readers with down-to-earth projects to enhance their property and ideas to help them take full advantage of their rich rural lifestyle," says Dan Crummett, Rural Life Exec Editor.
Rural Life audience demographics include $90,000+ average household annual income, home lot/acreage size of 10 to 80 acres, and 80% are computer owners and have Internet access.
"Our content provides detailed how-to projects paired with resource guides for supplies, tools and equipment to help readers get their projects planned and executed," Crummett says.
Rural population trends over the past decade and more recent advertiser demand spurred Farm Progress' rural-consumer magazine from planning stages to the publishing of its first issue, which debuted in April 2006. With Rural Life, Farm Progress' publications now collectively reach nearly 900,000 rural homes.
Beyond publishing, Rural Life is integrated into additional Farm Progress business units. The magazine's companion Web site, www.RuralLifeMagazine.com, provides readers with more detailed resource guides, monthly astronomy tips and maps, equine features, and more. Also, Rural Life will be incorporated in two of the company's fall shows, Farm Progress Show and Husker Harvest Days. Each event features a show-sponsored entertainment tent that is re-named the Rural Life Tent.
This trend has created a new class of rural-living consumers and with it marketers' desires to impact this audience and a new publishing opportunity for Farm Progress.
LIVING THE COUNTRY LIFE
In a twist on the adage: It's not what you know or who you know, it's who knows you. This is certainly the case four years after Successful Farming launched its rural lifestyle publication, Living the Country Life. It is a publication in tune with a rapidly growing rural acreage-owning audience and backed by Meredith Corporation's tremendous publishing and reader demographic resources, and broad home and family lifestyle editorial expertise.
Today, Living the Country Life is published four times a year, with each issue reaching more than 200,000 identified and confirmed rural home and acreage owners. It is a multi-media brand including a popular Web site, database, and television program on RFD-TV, all providing "ideas and inspiration for your place in the country."
Edited by Betsy Freese, Living the Country Life covers topics important to those rural acreage owners who live within commuting distance of major urban areas - topics such as equipment, lawn and garden, building, land management, wildlife, natural habitat and outdoor entertaining.
"We strive to develop a relationship with the reader, not only through the magazine, but the Web site and television program as well," says Freese, who lives on an acreage south of Des Moines. "The home and family expertise within Meredith Corporation enables us to have a unique insight into the lives of our readers and an understanding of what's important to them."
Publisher Scott Mortimer says the challenge with any successful rural life publication is to reach the right target audience with relevant information.
"Living the Country Life delivers inspiring and instructive editorial content and advertising to an audience that is eager and hungry for information that helps them enjoy their special place in the country," states Mortimer. "Our high level of reader acceptance translates into an attractive vehicle for advertisers who want to reach this rapidly growing, affluent market."
THE PROGRESSIVE FARMER
Our goal at The PROGRESSIVE FARMER is to serve landowners whether they have 10 acres or 10,000 acres, whether they are commercial farmers or small landowners. With 10 issues of the magazine and our Web site, Progressivefarmer.com, we provide helpful, useful information to help our readers enjoy their lifestyle.
Our journey to broadening our reader and advertiser base began with research, lots of research. We've conducted focus groups, quantitative surveys, and issue reading surveys through our Time Inc., research services. In the beginning what we were looking for were those common denominator subjects that cut across all lines - large landowners, small landowners, livestock growers, crop farmers, men, and women.
Those subjects were identified and the all-edition portions of the magazine were built around them. We also heard from focus groups and the other research that commercial farmers wanted business and management information in addition to these other how to/lifestyle information. To satisfy this need, we developed a business section that goes only to commercial farmers.
The results of building a magazine around research are paying off. First, our readership is much stronger than when we only focused on hardcore production and management information for commercial farmers. Readership results from our Time Inc., research group rates us as one of the highest read magazines in all of Time Inc. In fact, we lead in several areas including reader satisfaction, reader involvement and time spent with an issue.
Second, we have been able to attract new advertisers who are looking for a broader market. Advertisers such as Scott Paper Company, St. Joe Properties, Florida Natural Orange Juice, U.S. Postal Service, True Value Hardware, Lowes and others.
Third, we have been able to increase our circulation rate base for the first time in more than 45 years. We raised our rate base to 620,000 with the January 2006 issue and expect to raise our rate base again in January 2007. Of course, the new subscribers are all paid subscribers.
Our "lifestyle" editorial is really more how-to editorial. It focuses on subjects such as what are the best power tools for a specific job, how to use a conservation easement to protect your farm, how to grow the best tomatoes, how to attract or repel wildlife on your land, and what type of fencing works best.
We also developed two special sections that have proved extremely popular with advertisers, readers, and even other media. Our "Best Places to Live is Rural America" consistently achieves very high readership scores and this provides a good climate for advertisers. The list of best places has been picked up by AOL, The Washington Post, USA Today, The New York Times, and hundreds of local newspapers, radio and TV. When the issue came out, our Web site recorded more than 2 million page views in more than one week.
The other special section revolves around our idea house and farmstead also known as our Country Place. We build a house and outbuildings on a farmstead and then open the house for tours. Advertisers sponsor the program and their products are used in the house or farmstead. The idea is to develop a showplace for the country lifestyle.
We have several other ideas that we are developing for both readers and advertisers. We are looking at a new design for the magazine that ties what we've learned from our research into the design of the magazine and we plan to continue to increase our paid circulation rate base and to serve the entire audience of landowners. We think this trend of people moving to the country will continue and we have positioned The PROGRESSIVE FARMER to grow and give readers - commercial farmers, part-time farmers, new lifestyle landowners, what they want in a magazine. We also feel a responsibility to bring these groups together in order to improve the lives of rural Americans.
RURAL LIFESTYLE RADIO GROUP
Combining research and information with the power of rural legacy broadcasters is the basis for building a new rural lifestyle radio business for Rural Lifestyle Marketing, LLC. The newly created network organization offers rural lifestyle marketers detailed information about the demographics and media habits of rural lifestyle residents.
"The rural lifestyle market is very diverse," says Roger Olson, Dir of Mktg for Rural Lifestyle Marketing, LLC. "The information needs of sophisticated big-brand consumer companies are very different from the emerging company marketing a single product. However, what all rural lifestyle marketers have in common is the need for information to help them identify the market, and sort out the various media options available to them."
Detailed rural lifestyle demographic and radio ratings information is available on a CD provided by Rural Lifestyle Marketing, LLC. "The software allows the advertiser to look at the rural lifestyle market in a new way based on the actual population and lifestyle traits that are specific to the interest of the advertiser," said Olson.
Specific Rural Lifestyle Ratings in the software allows the advertiser to determine the effectiveness of a potential radio campaign before they make the investment.
Expansion of the Rural Lifestyle Marketing, LLC group is underway. Olson said discussions are being held with a number of broadcasters with interest to participate in the network. He said broadcasters wanting to learn more about membership should contact Eric Brown, General Manager of KRVN and the Rural Radio Network, Lexington, NE; or Mark Vail, VP of Radio Operations for Eagle Communications, Inc., Hays, KS.
A copy of the research report is available to rural lifestyle marketers by contacting Roger Olson at 715/386-9361, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
AMERICAN SMALL FARM
Magnet Communications, Chatsworth, CA, founded American Small Farm (ASF) in 1992. In 2000, the partnership of Andy Stevens and Marti Smith purchased the magazine and moved its headquarters to Ohio. Stevens has been the editor of ASF since it's inception.
ASF magazine specializes exclusively to the interests and needs of the American small farmer. Small farms are not "a niche market" for American Small Farm - they are the target audience. ASF readers earn income from agriculture and usually have at least one full-time, off-farm income. ASF articles are written to help farm families improve their farm business and lifestyle.
ASF's goal is to provide readers with information that will help them make their farm more efficient, more profitable and the work easier. Articles are geared toward the business and science of agriculture as well as stories that share the values and opportunities inherent to small farms. Readers are encouraged to share ideas that may assist other small farmers in choosing a diverse crop or livestock venture that may prove to be a money-making opportunity for their farm. Aquatics, organics and greenhouses are just three of the specialty sections offered on a rotational basis.
Because of the complex, changing nature of small farms, the USDA definition for a small farm is no longer applicable to ASF readers. In truth, there is no simple definition of a small farm. ASF recognizes the complexity of the family farm and strives to find readers who are searching for new ways of farming and marketing.
ASF's goal is to continue to provide small farmers the necessary tools with which to maintain their farmland as a viable income-producing agricultural venue.
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FARM BROADCASTING (NAFB)
Today's agri-marketers and agri-media sources all seem to be chasing the promising, yet elusive rural lifestyle market. It's been elusive due to the lack of research documenting the group's size and demographics and because most of current research is proprietary.
NAFB is poised to release the first national public media study focused on this growing audience segment, according to NAFB Pres Michelle Rook. "Preliminary studies have indicated rural life-stylers have radio habits very similar to farmers and NAFB hopes to build on the strength of those earlier findings," she said.
USDA's Economic Research Service estimates the rural lifestyle population at nearly 65 million. Rook said, "This is a huge potential audience, and one that appears to be ideally suited to radio. They commute to work listening to the radio, live in a rural environment and have a true passion for their rural lifestyle which makes them an attractive audience for radio."
The NAFB Rural Lifestyle Research will be compiled from phone surveys of 2,000 qualified respondents. It will provide an in-depth look at the rural lifestyle geography, demographics, media habits and consumer buying power, which will aid agri-marketers trying to reach this market segment to sell products and services.
The research will also determine what type of special programming is needed to further capture this audience, and what time frames they want to access rural lifestyle programs. Currently, many NAFB stations and networks are broadcasting rural interest programs. This study will insure that programming is on target and identify additional program interests.
The study was NAFB's top priority for 2006 and a research task force developed the objectives, desired outcomes, and the scope of the research survey. Roger Olson, who chairs the task force said, "This study will provide NAFB members and potential advertisers with a wealth of media usage and demographic information and define for both broadcasters and advertisers the unique product and media utilization by this special group."
Rook said the findings will be released at the NAFB Convention in November. "We're excited about the results. The data will be used by NAFB to promote the utilization of farm broadcast vehicles to rural lifestyle advertisers and help NAFB members take a leadership role in the rural lifestyle marketplace."