Early this year, American Business Media’s Agri Council conducted an update to their 2010 Media Channel Study. The council wanted to look at how farmers and ranchers use the many communication channels that serve their operations and observe the changes that could impact how marketers may formulate their communication plans.
The current survey replicated 2010’s methodology: a mailed survey with 1,062 active owners/operators/managers of farms and ranches participating. Results based on all respondents are subject to a maximum sample error of 3%.
Changes in Use from 2010 to 2012
“Weekly usage” of various media channels tracks usage over time. In this year’s survey, a total of 15 different channels were included, with little change in the top five since 2010. As our chart indicates, once again printed ag magazines and newspapers were the most used resources. However, while ag websites were in the sixth place two years ago, they now occupy the number five-spot with the expectation that weekly usage of websites will grow in the foreseeable future.
On the digital side, besides the increasing use of ag websites, weekly usage of ag-related e-newsletters also increased, moving from 27% to 30%. Ag-related text and SMS messaging migrated from 10% to 17%. Overall, 52% of respondents indicated the weekly use of at least one form of the digital channels measured.
Learning about New Products & Services
A second goal of the study was to determine how farmers and ranchers learn about new products and services. Ag magazines and newspapers, dealers/retailers and farm shows topped the list in 2012, with no changes from 2010.
Use in the Future
Another aspect of the survey attempts to gather a glimpse of the future by asking how the use of the various channels may change over the next three to four years. The real questions is: “How is the importance of each of these information sources likely to change for you over the next 3 to 4 years?”
Of course no one can predict the future with absolute certainty; however, the data suggests that both traditional and digital channels will be “more important” or “much more important” over the next 3 to 4 years. The top five channels were indicated as follows:
Other Observations from the 2012 Survey
First, while digital communications are important, traditional channels such as ag magazines-newspapers and dealers/retailers continue to be key elements in the communication mix.
Second, based on a deeper analysis of the results, younger operators are more likely to use digital channels than their older counterparts, but not at the price of traditional channels, particularly magazines and newspapers.
Finally, a well-designed mix of channels, leading to a well-formed integrated media buy, seems to be called for in this market as no one channel dominates the others.
The entire report was presented at ABM’s Ag Media Summit in 2012 and earlier in the year via a webinar.