Changing the way you use ag media

If rural America thought urban sprawl was one of the biggest challenges it faced, there's a new encroachment that's already begun. I call it technology sprawl. The first wave began with the beginning of the precision agriculture movement: light bars, GPS units and satellite tracking. The second wave included digital cell phones, iPhones and Blackberries. But the next wave seems to be social networking sites, blogs, iPhone applications and anything related to the internet.

Admittedly, agriculture has been slow to adopt technology that has descended from urban America. But the drive for agriculture to use mobile devices to access the internet for price shopping chemicals to reading commodity market info has already begun. Some retailers, crop consultants and farm managers have easily seen the value in finding and using this data and having it so readily available via cell phones.

However, it seems that our overall agriculture audience is somewhat complacent in what it expects to get from the internet. They have come to rely on and expect basic information, but perhaps they are missing a wider variety of data that could be useful if they only knew and understood its value.

Recently, I had lunch with a fellow friend in ag media. He works for a public relations agency that serves an agriculture association. He shared that his agency has helped the association redesign its Web site by adding unique tools, made the interface more user friendly and added numerous new ways for their readers to interact with the association. Despite the agency and association being thrilled with the final result, when speaking with users of the site, they said they really only used the site to read weather updates and commodity market information.
I suspect this is pretty typical among most users and consumers of agriculture media. However, media is changing the way its customers receive information. Anyone who's keeping up with current events realizes that many newspapers are folding, closing their doors or switching to online-only content. This shift is coming for ag media as well.

Farmers and retailers will have to adjust to how they receive and view agriculture news.

There already is a plethora of new information and ways to customize the news readers want, when they want to receive it and how. Some have been quick to adopt and others will be slow. But either way, ag news will shift more toward e-mail newsletters, breaking news on their Web sites, more original content on Web sites and updates on Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn and other "social media," which are popping up overnight.

When farmers and retailers began using precision agriculture, the challenge many faced was knowing how to make the excessive amount of raw data that was generated into something useful and helpful to their organization. I suspect news in the future will be similar for rural readers. Knowing how to find the best data, where to find it and when it will appear will be key for readers to be the most informed. But it will require that readers be able to follow the news, and it will be the media's job to guide them.

The company that owns AgProfessional is investing in teaching its editors how to become Web-first publishers and to write more for the electronic medium.

AgProfessional will continue to print its magazine, but a new variety of information will be coming over the next several months as editors strive to find new ways to use the new social media and Web technology to share information and keep ag retailers informed. As ag media fights to remain viable in challenging economic times, these changes are necessary. But we always welcome your input as the tide shifts to help guide us so that we continue to provide the best information to help you be profitable.