AGRICLICK: STRATEGICALLY REFINING AG ON THE INTERNET
In 1999, agricultural Web sites popped up quicker than network variations of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." But it’s already becoming apparent that the ag Internet revolution is evolving from a poorly defined gold rush to a solid business opportunity for companies that apply marketing strategies and perhaps a bit of common sense.
An example of this strategically refined approach is purported in AgriClick, a business-to-business online community launched this spring by Primedia’s (NYSE: PRM) IndustryClick. AgriClick features a Web site architecture that promises to bring an all-new level of utility to interactive agriculture.
The central element: a vertical online community concept pioneered and launched successfully in other industries by parent IndustryClick. The first AgriClick vertical community, CottonClick™, was launched in March to the nation’s cotton producers, and as many as five more ag vertical communities are planned by the end of 2000. Up to 20 such communities ultimately could be launched, says Gordon Billingsley, content director of AgriClick.
"Strategically, one of our goals is to provide both the depth and functionality a given farmer wants and the breadth of information necessary to represent agriculture," he says.
A FOCUS ON CONTENT
The starting point of the AgriClick site, Billingsley says, is content. AgriClick boasts a four-person team of editors who review, select and update the site’s news offerings throughout the day. The editors also evaluate news submitted to the site via the "Submit Your News" feature, which provides industry professionals with a new tool to extend the reach of their targeted news.
In addition, the site includes content from Intertec Publishing, a business-to-business unit of Primedia that boasts a roster of ag titles, including BEEF, Delta Farm Press® Farm Industry News, Hay & Forage Grower, National Hog Farmer, Southeast Farm Press, Southwest Farm Press, Soybean Digest, Western Farm Press and those publications’ affiliated Home Farm portal.
The main AgriClick site offers 15 "channels" of news, giving producers the ability to browse - at whatever depth of detail they desire - among many different commodities and types of news.
EVOLVING TOWARD E-COMMERCE
With the content portion of the site established, the AgriClick executive team now is building the e-commerce component to add greater value to the relationship with farmers. AgriClick made its first move in April when parent Primedia Inc. announced it had bought a minority interest in MetaFarms, the leading provider of animal management software and information services for the pork industry. Initial plans call for AgriClick, National Hog Farmer and MetaFarms to develop similar online animal management programs for other species.
"This is a great example of a new media business alliance," says Dr. Thomas Stein, chief executive officer of MetaFarms, which operates a site at porknet.com. "We’re linking the established media presence and strategic partners that Primedia brings with our industry-leading Web-based business solutions to create a dominant e-business model for commercial animal production."
Primedia has the option to buy a larger share of MetaFarms at a later date.
Beyond the MetaFarms deal, Billingsley says AgriClick is evaluating several ventures - some involving equity, some involving other business relationships.
"We’re being deliberate in who we’re talking to and, certainly, who we’ll partner with," Billingsley says. "We want to find category-leading business partners that share our vision - for e-commerce, for the value of information and, overall, for the best ways to serve producers in high-value vertical markets."
If the history of its parent company is any indication, AgriClick will be serving producers well after many of the dot-com fads have come and gone. AM
Deron Johnson is with Gibbs & Soell Inc. Public Relations in Hoffman Estates, Ill.