RURAL LIFESTYLE MEDIA UPDATES
Editor's note: Media covering the rural lifestyle market were invited to provide updates on their audiences and services. Following are comments from those who chose to participate.
Since its inception in 2001, Hobby Farms has been the premier source of news, inspiration, and how-to information for the hobby farmer and lifestyle-farm industry.
Now the fastest growing paid publication serving the small-scale farmer, Hobby Farms recorded an impressive 50% increase in circulation last year. Newsstands also continue to grow at a record pace and the magazine is currently sold in more than 1,800 farm and ranch stores around the country. As the momentum continues, circulation is expected to easily top 100,000 copies in 2008, as every copy sold is verified by an ABC audit.
The lives of Hobby Farms' editors mirror that of their readers, beginning with Karen Keb Acevedo, Editor-in-Chief. "Regardless of how we became hobby farmers, we all share the common goal of educating ourselves about farm life," says Acevedo. "We share a do-it-yourself spirit and a desire to live as independently as possible off our land."
Mark Hunkeler, Group Advtg Dir says, "We're one-of-a-kind, an original whose mission has always been to serve the small scale producer. Our ability to immerse ourselves within the rural life-style delivers advertisers a tremendous resource of fresh, active consumers with a variety of needs and significant discretionary income."
In 2006 Hobby Farms also became a true publishing group with the launch of Hobby Farm Home, which focuses on enjoying the fruits of farm labor with home-grown recipes, crafting and home beautification.
On its heels came The Popular Farming Series, a group how-to maga-books for livestock and farming with eight issues currently on sale.
Finally there's www.hobbyfarms.com with its informative and entertaining mix of forums and community driven activities.
LIVING THE COUNTRY LIFE
The one defining characteristic of the rural lifestyle audience is their unwavering passion for country living. And few media companies are better suited to engage this rapidly growing market than the Living the Country Life brands, a joint venture of Meredith Corporation and Learfield Communications, Inc.
These companies have harnessed their collective editorial, publishing and broadcast resources, creating highly integrated, multi-media platforms that include:
Living the Country Life Web site. This Web site serves as the primary, one-stop Internet resource and on-demand connection point for rural America. It has been redesigned and relaunched this month to be even more informative and easier to navigate. It includes discussion groups, blogs, buyers' guides, slide shows and videos on many relevant topics, as well as streaming audio of Living the Country Life radio and archives of past magazines and TV and radio programs.
Living the Country Life Radio. Launched this month, the radio program capitalizes on the immediacy and intimacy of radio. The radio program features 2- and 31/2-minute weekday programs aired on a projected 200 leading radio stations by the end of this year.
Living the Country Life Television. Premiering on the RFD-TV network in 2003, the TV program is created specifically for the rural audience. The 30-minute program covers a wide range of important topics from animals and gardening to machinery and outdoor entertaining, and is now broadcast nationwide 52 weeks a year.
Living the Country Life magazine. The first rural lifestyle product of Meredith in 2002, the
bi-monthly magazine reaches more than 200,000 affluent households with two-plus acres in the country. Edited by Betsy Freese, who lives this lifestyle, and serves as host and talent for the broadcast properties. The magazine is the official publication of the Country Living Association.
Database. In addition to its extensive media offering to this market, Living the Country Life offers access to Meredith's 85 million-household database, one of the largest, most highly qualified in the country. The database, along with Meredith's advanced digital custom publishing capabilities, provides marketers a tailor-made way to reach rural consumers with their own messages and materials.
Many of today's agri-marketers are pursuing the promising rural lifestyle market. It had been elusive due to the lack of research documenting the group's size and demographics, but the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) changed that with The NAFB Rural Lifestyle Report, the first national research of the rural lifestyle audience.
"There has been a lot of interest in this research since day one," says Roger Olson, Pres, Rural Lifestyle Media, and consultant to NAFB. "I honestly thought some of the initial inquiries would eventually plateau, but that hasn't happened."
USDAs estimates the rural lifestyle population at nearly 69 million. It is a huge audience, and 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.
"This audience isn't a new phenomenon," Olson says. "They have been in rural America for years. The biggest change is that rural marketers and media are recognizing their buying power and pursuing them as customers, particularly utilizing radio."
The research determined what type of special programming is needed to further capture this audience, and what time frames they want to access it. Currently, more than 55% of NAFB stations and networks surveyed say that they are broadcasting rural interest programs. This study has helped many members develop programming and identify additional content interests that are on target.
The PROGRESSIVE FARMER
It's the land that is the key to the rural lifestyle market and to the farm market for that matter. Land is the common theme that ties everyone who lives in the country together.
That's something we at the PROGRESSIVE FARMER have understood from the time we embarked on the process of broadening our reader and advertiser base. We understood that to grow readership, we could not segment our audience into tiny pieces. Through extensive audience and readership surveys we found those common areas of interest between large and small land-owners and between commercial farmers and people who just live on land in the country.
That's why today, Progressive Farmer is the only farm and rural lifestyle magazine that is growing in paid circulation. Our rate base has grown more than 50,000 in the past 18 months and we will add another 25,000 in February 2008.
This increase is coming from commercial farmers who are now paying for the magazine, small and medium size and part-time farmers and new people who are moving to the country.
Our research shows that some of the best-read articles go to our entire circulation. For instance, information related to legal issues of land use, land prices, money and taxes, tools, wildlife management, etc., are read equally well by commercial farmers and non-farmer landowners.
We've been able to marry these various groups together under one publication, increase our readership, increase our paid circulation and broaden our advertising base. Those that try to segment this audience of landowners into tiny pieces do so at the risk of missing huge chunks of this market and alienating many in the audience.
To grow and prosper, the entire audience must be served.
RFD-TV, serving over 30 million television households, continues to grow and diversify the number of programs targeting the rural lifestyle audience. Recent agreements with major cable providers including Comcast, Bresnan and Charter and growing market numbers through Mediacom and NCTC continues to prove that RFD-TV's programming is right on track.
RFD-TV has more than seven years of experience programming to the growing rural audience which has now been identified officially as Rural Lifestyle. "The viewer reaction to the addition of programs such as "Living the Country Life," "Purina's Animal Make-over TV" and "Ag Lifestyles" shows us that this group is very hungry for information and programs that reflect their rural ideals," says Mike Hansen, Exec VP.
Live Monday evening viewer call-in shows from a list that includes John Deere, Purina and Tractor
Supply Company stores produce record numbers of calls.
Additional topics ranging from classic tractors, restoration, agriculture and family entertainment all find excited acceptance with the lifestyle demographic providing viewers with a tie to the past or the desire to return to their rural roots.
RFD-TV continues on the growth path with the planned launch of RFD HD making the network a major player in the high definition television arena.
Rural Life published quarterly by Farm Progress Cos., serves an audience of 125,000 affluent rural, multiple-acre homeowners.
The magazine has carved its market niche by serving the up-scale rural consumer. 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.
Rural Life audience demographics include $90,000 median household annual income (average is $154,000), home lot/acreage average is 20 acres, 80% are computer owners and 72% have Internet access.
Rural Life's just-released reader profile survey reports these additional audience and market segment details:
• 97% of readers own their own homes and have lived at their present residences an average of 24 years. Its audience reflects the recent rural-living surge with 22% of its readers living in their present residences less than ten years.
• Average reader age is 51 and the average household (HH) size is 2.5 people.
• 54% of readers work away from home and travel an average of 20 miles one-way to work.
• Nearly all readers have basic repair skills, including woodworking, vehicle service, electrical, building renovation and plumbing skills.
• Nearly all readers are involved with active outdoor interests and 82% are hunting, sport shooting and fishing enthusiasts.
• 83% own at least one tractor.
• Most popular vehicle: Truck. 93% own pickups or SUVs.
• 90% own pets or livestock. 83% own one or more pets and dogs are the most prevalent pet (68%), followed by cats (57%), cattle (36%), and horses (26%).
• Readers value education and 58% are educated beyond high school; nearly one-third of all readers are college graduates.
• Most common hobbies: gardening and hunting.
Beyond publishing, Rural Life is integrated into additional Farm Progress business units. The magazine's companion Web site, www.RuralLifeMagazine.com, provides readers with detailed product guides, project how-to instructions, monthly astronomy tips and maps, equine features and more resources.
Also, Rural Life hosts entertainment venues at two of the company's fall shows, Farm Progress Show and Husker Harvest Days.
RURAL LIFESTYLE DEALER
Rural Lifestyle Dealer magazine is making its debut this October and is published by Lessiter Publications, Brookfield, WI.
While the growth in the rural lifestyle market is well documented, marketers are challenged in that these consumers and their buying habits are not easily quantified, says Mike Lessiter, Editor/Publisher of the Farm Equipment Division. The common link in this market are the local dealerships. And despite the tremendous growth, the knowledge on retailing and servicing a different and still-emerging type of customer has lagged behind, says Lessiter.
To fill this void, Farm Equipment editors have launched Rural Lifestyle Dealer, the only business-to-business publication devoted to rural lifestyle equipment's retail side. "Our mission with this new title is to help dealers profit through better line-carrying decisions, awareness of retail best practices specific to this market and other ideas for succeeding with the unique nuances of this type of buyer," says Lessiter.
Noting that nearly every dealership in North America now has a hobby farmer clientele, Lessiter also believes a new and different dealer model is emerging — one that may specialize solely on the rural lifestyle buyer. "There may be some blurring of the lines with other types of dealerships, too," says Lessiter, noting that rural lifestyle buyers purchase zero-turn mowers, ATVs and utility vehicles, pull-behind mowers, trailers, loaders, and attachments for everything under the sun — all in addition to the compact tractor.
"Farm equipment dealers are best positioned for this market because other types don't generally have the mechanical expertise to work on tractors, and the larger retail centers have not committed to service," he says. "Expertise in equipment and technical service is vital to success with hobby farmers, and it is also extremely profitable for the dealer equipped to provide that service."
RURAL LIFESTYLE RADIO GROUP
Rural Lifestyle Marketing, LLC unites a group of legacy rural broadcasters to provide the emerging market with research, information and a single source for marketing and communication solutions.
Rural Lifestyle Marketing, LLC is the first broadcast group in the country to provide specialized Rural Lifestyle ratings. In addition to providing detailed information about radio listening, the unique study offers rural lifestyle marketers specific demographic marketing facts about nearly 50 different rural lifestyle demographics, shopping habits and product usage.
"The software allows the advertiser to analyze the rural lifestyle market based on the actual population and lifestyle traits that are specific to the interest of the advertiser," says Roger Olson, of Rural Lifestyle Media, a consultant to the group.
While national advertisers were the initial focus of the research effort, local and regional advertisers are finding the material of great value.
Lynn Ketelsen of the Linder Network in Minnesota said they joined the group to be part of the leading edge effort to develop the national rural lifestyle market. One of the added benefits has been use of the material in their local and regional marketing efforts.
Special events are one of the many services offered by the Rural Lifestyle Marketing network.
Ketelsen said the group is finding great success working with advertisers trying to find and reach the rural lifestyle market. One example he cited is a recent rural lifestyle event hosted by the Linder Network and their affiliate in Mankato, MN. More than 500 people with an interest in rural lifestyle activities were attracted to a special Saturday live broadcast from a farm and rural supply store parking lot.
The Rural Lifestyle Marketing, LLC group is expanding their geography and reach. Broadcasters wanting to learn more about membership should contact Eric Brown, GM of the Rural Radio Network, Lexington, NE, or Mark Vail, VP of Radio Operations for Eagle Communications, Inc., Hays, KS.
A copy of the ratings and research report is available to rural lifestyle marketers and their agencies by contacting Roger Olson at 715/386-9361 or firstname.lastname@example.org.