Agri Marketing celebrates 50th anniversary
Lynn Henderson

Lynn Henderson

Nov. 13, 2012 -- In 1962, more than 500 agri-marketers gathered for an industry event, the “FarMarketing Seminar.” Seeking coverage, the agri marketing industry invited general trade press to cover the event.  The turnout was large but the coverage was not: only two lines of copy. Feeling snubbed and frustrated, they approached a man named Phil Miller with the idea of launching a magazine strictly dedicated to agricultural communications and marketing.  A few months later, Miller founded and launched Agri Marketing magazine.

This fall, Agri Marketing is celebrating its 50th anniversary under owner Lynn Henderson (also the editorial director and publisher and an ABM Agri Council member), who has worked for the brand in some capacity for more than 35 years. In 1976, Henderson started off as sales manager and has worked his way up to owner after buying the magazine from Doane. He says a lot has changed in the past 50 years, which is driving agri trade publications to change as well.

“When I was raised in Eastern Iowa in the 1960s, farms were pretty typical,” says Henderson. “It had about 300 acres and some cattle, hogs, chickens. They were very diversified operations. That has all changed.”

Over the years, says Henderson, farms have gotten bigger with less help, due to mechanization, and also more specialized, which is how the magazine was founded.

“It might surprise people that we have as many agriculture-oriented publications as we did 50 years ago. Certainly we have lost some pretty big-named publications, but they were really general publications talking to the farmer [of yesterday]. With the advent of specialized farming, we have publications that are now really specific. They are designed for niche audiences in the agricultural industry, but very important audiences to advertisers.”

The decrease in the number of farmers has been followed by a decrease in the number of advertisers, according to Henderson. Over the years, as in many other industries, seed companies, machine companies and more have consolidated into multi-million dollar operations. But while the number of companies have fallen, they are still looking to market their services in trade press just in a different way. Integrated packages: it’s a familiar term for all media and what agri advertisers are looking for as well.

So, Agri Marketing is giving their customers what they want. In addition to Agri Marketing magazine, which has a print distribution of 7,500, the brand has the now-typical suite of mediums: Agrimarketing.com, which has allowed the company to almost triple its audience; e-newsletters; a digital-formatted version of its magazine; social media handles; and an app.

“The ability to reach a lot more people with our message via electronic services has been a real boost for our magazine and for all the company's products,” says Henderson. “Helping that along are the integrated packages we are able to offer. It's not just print advertisements, it's sponsorship opportunities, new content offerings.”

He reports that Agri Marketing is having its best year ever, with its combined print and digital revenues up 20 percent. While the company says digital is certainly the magazine’s “best friend,” he notes that print is still number one for the agri industry, in line with a recent ABM study.

Much has changed since Agri Marketing got its start, but to Henderson those changes will drive agriculture-specific b-to-b media companies to success.

“As farming operations get bigger, which they will, their need for additional information from reliable sources intensifies,” he says. “Farming has always been risky but now we are talking about a huge dollar risk. As a result, the person that is managing that operation, and those working with him or her, are going to specialize their activities, and they are going to need even more specialized information.”

By Elizabeth A. Reid