I was invited by Michele Payn-Knoper, Cause Matters, to write a guest post on her Gate to Plate Blog, titled, “WKRP, Silver Sows & Communications Changes,” about my observations of changes in ag media. That was posted this week and with her okay, I’m sharing it with you here. I’d love to hear your feedback, especially in answer to questions posted at end:
Who knew seven years ago that the internet would become so ubiquitous and self-publishing software (blogging/podcasting) would allow everyone to become “the media?” Not me. But that was shortly before my wife/partner, Cindy, and I started a company that works exclusively in the production and distribution of online agricultural news and information. Before that we were “traditional media,” working in farm radio broadcasting for 20+ years. Remember WKRP in Cincinnati and Les Nessman, who was proud of his Silver Sow award for hog reporting? Yeah, I’m that old. Well, we were Les Nessman for many stations via syndicated farm reports. But things have changed!
Back in 1985, there were close to 300 broadcast members of what is now the National Association of Farm Broadcasting. Today there are less than 150. At the same time, there is far more farm audio news being produced and consumed. It’s just being done via the web, courtesy of podcasting in various forms (some subscription, some click to listen). I still believe farm radio is a viable and valuable media channel. Consolidation wreaked havoc though on an industry that was known for great public service and creativity.
Today, I carry more transmitting power in my shoulder bag than any local radio or TV station. I now broadcast to the world-and so do farmers, agribusiness companies, farm groups , farm radio broadcasters and publication editors. The media has converged in agriculture to the point where farm broadcasters are carrying cameras and farm publications are shooting video. Farmers themselves have become legitimate information sources for the public via Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Some may argue about who is “real” media these days – I say everyone is!
I remember doing a Google search for farm blogs when I got started and there were only a handful. Now there are thousands; many are created and managed by farmers as well as the farm media. I just looked at the web stats for AgWired, and in the last month visitors came from 133 different countries! New media channels like blogs, podcasts and social networking now let us broadcast to the global marketplace.
If you’ve been following Michele, then you know all about AgChat and how farmers are using social networking to re-connect consumers with the source of the food they eat and foster better understanding between gate and plate. These wonderful new communications technologies have also allowed a lot of people to distribute inaccurate information, often with a political or personal agenda. This makes it even more important that farmers get involved and make their voice heard. No excuses now. All you need is computer and internet access and you don’t even have to own it. You can often just go to your local library and hop online for free!
In the last year, several surveys have been conducted by traditional media companies and marketing agencies to determine farmer use of media and they all tell a story of the growth of farmer use of online information channels. There is no one source of information for farmers. So what does this mean? It means that how farmers and the general public consume information has forever changed. But while it means that traditional ag media channels find themselves competing with lots of new information sources, it also means new opportunities for them to distribute information and reach new audiences.
So, I’ll leave you with a couple of questions. What do you think the changes in ag media and communications means to farmers? To the general public? What does it mean for traditional ag media? Have you changed the way you get farm news and information?