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Top Producer, Farm Journal Media's business magazine for farmers, became the first agricultural magazine to offer its readers an option of receiving a digital, online edition with its September 2005 issue.

The digital edition of Top Producer is like ink on paper delivered electronically. Using a Web browser, with no downloads required, readers can click on a link to view the magazine on their computer and simply leaf through magazine pages. Digital delivery technology enables readers to click on hot links to every Web site mentioned on editorial pages and in advertisements and to listen to audio and to view video.

For example, to showcase Farm Journal Media's multimedia strategy, a two-minute video of new host John Phipps was embedded in an ad for the U.S. Farm Report television show in the digital version of the September Top Producer.

The technology also speeds delivery of content. It takes only a few days to prepare copy for digital delivery.

Marcia Taylor, editor, Top Producer
"Farmers who opt for the digital edition will be able to receive advice from popular marketing columnist Jerry Gulke and other market-sensitive information sooner than their neighbors who receive only the print edition in their mailboxes," said Marcia Taylor, editor of the 21-year-old Top Producer magazine with 190,000 readers. "Automated search features allow online readers to return to topics of interest easily within an issue, and automatic archiving gives readers access to back issues without paper clutter," she said.

"Top Producer readers are the most sophisticated in agriculture, so it makes sense they'd be the first to gravitate to a new technology like online publishing," added Steve Custer, publisher of Farm Journal and Top Producer. "This is a new, exciting way for us to powerfully combine our database, publishing and Internet expertise."

Farm Journal Media's early embrace of this new technology is reminiscent of the 128-year-old Farm Journal's role as the first magazine in the world to target editorial and advertising to individual readers with Selectronic™ binding in the early 1980s.


The company embarked on its latest leadership in technology after conducting several reader surveys, plus actually testing various digital delivery vendors side-by-side. One survey showed that 82 percent of readers found it easy to read the digital format. And 23 percent of e-mail recipients said they would prefer digital to print.

"We're fully aware there will be an adoption curve to this exciting new medium," said Andy Weber, president and CEO of Farm Journal Media. "But we feel adoption of the digital edition will be rapid. Digital delivery is fully consistent with our strategy of connecting buyers and sellers in agriculture through effective, multi-media platforms."

Based on their research, Farm Journal Media executives chose as its partner Texterity Inc., a privately held Southborough, Mass., firm founded in 1991 that serves numerous consumer and trade publishers. Reader's Digest, for example, published its milestone 1,000th issue using Texterity's digital delivery. Starting with its first digital magazine, SQL Server, Penton Media has expanded to 28 digital editions of its magazines, the most of any media company.


A digital edition of Top Producer will be available to any subscriber who chooses it. Subscribers who select the digital option also will receive a printed option through the end of 2005. Then readers can choose if they would prefer a digital edition or print, or choose to receive both digital and print. Weber expects other company titles to begin offering digital editions beginning in 2006.

Publications delivered via Texterity can qualify as part of a magazine's audited circulation. Texterity also provides tracking reports on the number of readers, how much time they spend reading and which sections of each document they visit often.

Standard HTML and Javascript, Texterity's published Web format, can also be used for catalogues, corporate documents or digital libraries. The technology also permits readers to easily navigate pages, to view magazines in original size or via zoom, to look at the table of contents, to read one or two pages at once and to print pages. AM

Sonja Hillgren, senior vice president/editorial of Farm Journal Media, directs the annual Farm Journal Forum.

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