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Nearly every radio or broadcast station has a Web site - in today's wired world, it is a necessity. But one radio network has taken its online presence to a new level. AgriAmerica, Indianapolis, is no longer just providing information to listeners; it is providing the means to access that information.

AgriAmerica Online, a dial-up Internet access service, was developed in the fall of 2002, and the network began marketing the service to subscribers in January 2003.

"The online service seemed to be a logical extension of where we're trying to go," says Gary Truitt, director of network operations. AgriAmerica moved into the online world two years ago by introducing an interactive Web site.

But, as Truitt is quick to point out, an online presence is only effective if people are able to access it. "We saw a real need for Internet services in rural areas," says Truitt. "The big-name services, such as MSN or AOL, tend to focus on urban areas, ignoring the smaller communities. And local phone companies in these areas often do not offer high-speed service."

AgriAmerica Online has three subscription levels: the basic service, high-speed access with WebRunner, and access with content filters for families. "WebRunner is unique in that it allows users to connect to the Internet through their regular phone lines at about the speed of cable or DSL, without any special equipment," Truitt says.

In marketing AgriAmerica Online, the network relies heavily on the brand it has developed and the relationships it has built as a broadcast company. "With our network of 70 stations reaching 50 percent of the farm audience in Indiana, this has been the best, most effective and cost-efficient marketing method," Truitt says. The network is also able to spread the word through point-of-contact interaction with farmers, such as county fairs and field days where thousands of sign-up disks have been distributed.

In order to expand the service, AgriAmerica will also be collaborating with other media and agribusinesses. For example, I-Corn, an online seed firm, helped sponsor the sign-up disk. The network is also joining together with other farm organizations. In return for their marketing efforts, the organizations receive a monthly commission for every subscription they sell.

Current marketing efforts are focused on rural residents in Indiana, though the service is available nationwide. But for now, the company is content to build its service one subscriber at a time. "There really are not a lot of models for this type of service out there," Truitt says. "We aren't expecting to compete with the big-name Internet companies. Instead, we are hoping to provide a much-needed service for an audience that has been underserved and overlooked."

For more information on AgriAmerica Online, visit AM

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