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Throughout all the changes in agriculture, everyone has wondered what they would mean for independent weekly magazines that serve the farming industry. If anything, the niche for this special type of publishing has been confirmed and has become even stronger.

Tom Taylor, associate publisher, High Plains Journal
"Diverse farming here in the High Plains has shown that a weekly publication is even more important," says Tom Taylor, associate publisher of High Plains Journal. "Farmers and ranchers in the High Plains may plant wheat in the fall, turn out cattle on it in the spring, get busy with wheat harvest in May and June, plant milo - maybe corn and beans - market or ship their cattle, then turn right around and start over again."

This was the driving force that made the weekly into a national farm publication. Since its inception in 1947, the magazine has helped High Plains farmers and ranchers become larger and larger, watch markets, market products, and buy and sell equipment on a weekly basis.

"A lot of subscribers and advertisers bank on the fact that over 50,000 readers will have the publication in their hands by Saturday or Monday morning - without exception. We can't miss a beat; our market depends on it," Taylor says.

The market has significantly evolved over the years, too. Commodities across the region, which ranges from North Dakota and Minnesota to Texas and Colorado to Iowa and Missouri, have changed significantly. Cotton, once reserved for Southern states, has moved into Kansas in a big way in the past few years. Kansas even boasts two new cotton gins in the eastern and western parts of the state. Irrigation has helped corn and soybeans move farther west and south, making them important parts of the editorial formula.

Galen Hubbs, editor, High Plains Journal
"We work hard to match the readers' needs with five regional editions and sometimes over 45 versions of the publication each week," editor Galen Hubbs says. "Our subscribers know that farming in the High Plains isn't restricted by state lines; it's based more on soil types than anything. Although U.S. commerce seems to move east and west, our farmers and ranchers are more north- to-south oriented."

New and used equipment purchases seem to have a distinct west to east movement, though. "The big equipment seems to start in the western part of the High Plains and moves east, eventually ending up in states such as Missouri and Iowa," Hubbs says. "Not only do our advertisers keep this in mind, but it's important to our editors, too."

This movement is a major reason for the magazine's large classified sections. Hubbs attributes this market understanding to holding on to the publication's paid subscription base over the years. "If anything, our editorial package and weekly timing have greatly increased our penetration of the remaining ag market. That's why constantly researching and adjusting our formula has been so important over the years."

"These changes," Taylor says, "have made us what we are today. Our readers are constantly demanding more from us, and our advertisers have also changed with the readers' needs. New editorial units, the Internet, special delivery requests, faster turn-around . . . who knows what we will be doing tomorrow?"

In the meantime, readers across the High Plains schedule their weekends around a trip to the mailbox, knowing that, for now, there is one element of their lives they can still depend on. AM

Bob Wetmore is president of the Dodge City Area Chamber of Commerce and the Dodge City/Ford County Development Corp. He was formerly director of marketing for High Plains Journal.

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