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You reap what you sow ... and research by Harris Interactive confirms that this is especially true when reaching out to the ag market. An integrated business media campaign utilizing a variety of mediums or "seeds" is unequivocally the most effective way to reach and motivate farmers and ranchers.

American Business Media (ABM), the Association of Business Information Companies, and its Agricultural Council (Agri Council) commissioned Harris Interactive to explore the different types of agricultural media consumed by farmers and ranchers, and to question how these different business media outlets influence their research of products and purchases. More than 2,700 farmers and ranchers responded.

An integrated business-to-business schedule is undoubtedly the most effective means to reach farmers and ranchers as they consume many sources of agricultural media, most with a high degree of frequency. Ag magazines and newspapers are read by nearly all farmers and ranchers on a monthly basis (97%) and most on a weekly basis (81%). Other commonly-used (read at least once monthly) sources include daily newspapers (87% of respondents); ag newsletters (85%); ag radio shows (56%); ag television programs (59%); ag Internet sites (38%); and ag manufacturer or supplier publications (67%).

Farmers and ranchers are spending an average of six hours with all agricultural media on a weekly basis, including about four hours with ag magazines and newspapers. And most are using the same amount, or more, of ag media than they did just three to four years ago.

Age seems to be the most influential factor in determining the amount of time spent with business media sources, with those under 40 spending more time with a variety of ag media. This may simply be a sign that younger farmers and ranchers are still trying to discern which sources they find more reliable; it may, on the other hand, also indicate that younger respondents are large consumers of information, and more comfortable with the concept of integrated media, particularly digital products, than their elder counterparts.

Younger respondents are also more likely to use the Internet on a weekly basis. But, in general, the Internet is growing in importance as a source of information used by all farmers and ranchers, and is currently used most often to check on markets and weather or to research new products and services.

Two in five respondents report purchasing new products on the Internet, with younger participants more likely to do so. The Internet is also an important information source for those with higher revenues, particularly of $750K or more.

Beyond the numbers, it is essential to recognize that different business media outlets serve different purposes along various points in the purchasing process. About two-thirds of farmers and ranchers depend on ag media a great deal or somewhat when making purchase decisions.

Broad-based media sources such as magazines, television, radio and newsletters are most often used at the beginning of the purchase process, when farmers and ranchers are just starting their research. Sources such as farm shows, conferences or seminars, and the Internet — which all provide opportunity for interaction or exchange of information — are more commonly used throughout the entire process. Young farmers, perhaps because they are still formulating opinions about ag media, indicate a greater reliance during the purchase process on sources such as farm shows (47%) and the Internet (30%).

Finally, ag media and information sources were evaluated on five criteria: how credible, timely, knowledgeable, respected and objective they are. Each attribute was measured on a scale of one to five, where five indicated the highest quality of that characteristic. Among the most highly-regarded sources were ag magazines and newspapers (most respected and objective), ag newsletters (most knowledgeable), and ag dealers/retailers (most timely and credible).

There are many ways to reach the ag market — and based on the results of ABM's Harris Interactive study, we don't recommend just one. Farmers and ranchers rely upon a wide variety of business media, so if you want to capture their attention, it's time to start spreading around the advertising dollars. Ag magazines and newspapers continue to play a significant role in providing information, while Internet usage is continually expanding. Ultimately, the most accurate, timely and objective information, wrapped in an integrated mix of ag media, will produce the greatest harvest.

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