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CALL ME: (913) 441-3970

In their exhaustive treatment of the modern woes of America’s newspaper decline, Will the Last Reporter Please Turn out the Lights, editors Robert McChesney and Victor Pickard build a convincing case that America’s fourth estate is suffering because the Internet made it impossible to hold onto monopolies media enjoyed for decades. When a sole city daily was the only source citizens could turn to for news, it was relatively easy to dictate how news was covered--not to mention lucrative. Media investor Warren Buffett, they quote, recognized in 2006 the reality that “no paper in a one-paper city, however bad the product or however inept the management, could avoid gushing profits.”

No more.

The Internet's democratization of journalism wiped out those monopolies, eliminating traditional barriers to accessing news where, when and from whom the public chose to find it. Will the Last Reporter’s editors try to build the case that the only way forward for journalism is via non-market, public support, likely through either non-profit backing or government subsidy.

But there’s another answer, one that presents opportunity for ag marketers.

Between the extremes of free-wheeling democratic journalism vs. carefully controlled elite government-funded journalism, the solution might instead lie in what could be called republican journalism. That is, small-“R” republican journalism: Journalism that, rather than pretending to an objectivity that never matures into fair examination of issues, instead openly recognizes natural factions and alliances have their own point of view and reports unabashedly from that point of view. The model is no stranger to this country, where in the early days of the Republic each political party fielded its own newspaper, openly biased in favor of its underlying beliefs. Such a federated approach to journalism would create non-objective news, of course. But in that model, farmers, food-chain stakeholders and agrimarketers are less dependent on what's left of traditional media to interpret and carry their message, "fairly" and "objectively." Instead, they create their own media. Consumers are free to objectively evaluate it with their own critical eye. They ither reward it for the value it presents--no differently than how they choose a marketer's physical products--or discard it based on their belief it does not bring them value.

That's brand journalism.

So let your brand journalism shine. How? The form of your content aside, your content must borrow what we know worked well in ag journalism's past. Too many content-marketers today have forgotten the well-understood golden rule of the ag-magazine age: Get to it, already. Good ag service journalism is good ag service journalism, whether it's delivered by an old-line farm publisher or by a brand newsroom. Good ag journalism doesn't simply repeat. It interprets. It analyzes. It even dares to offer readers suggestions on what to think. That's the bright defining line that separates an authentic, must-read e-mail from spam. It's the human touch that's gone missing from too much technology-centric content farming.

You want a brand-journalism, content-marketing campaign to build authenticity that translates into conversions and sales? Try this:

  • Forget about sounding authentic. Be authentic. Every transparent, ham-handed attempt to sucker a reader into content in order to dump product features and benefits on them will do more than just fall flat. In today's media environment in which customers have little patience and high expectations of all content, it will actively drive them away. That's the toughest hurdle when making the painful transition from out-bound to in-bound market. And it's one of the best arguments for hiring an objective outsider to curate content--one who thinks more like an editor than a sales manager.
  • Be worth following. In shifting their promotion dollars away from advertising, content marketers have usurped much of agricultural journalism from the old-line ag publishers. But the risk is they forget that means they have also taken over the responsibility those publishers used to assume. If your content marketing's not up to the sometimes burdensome task of honestly shouldering that responsibility, you shouldn't be surprised if media consumers flee when your marketing content devolves into little more than a long, boring monolog about yourself.
  • Be fearless about what your brand stands for. Real content marketing, done right, is not for the faint of heart, especially in the ag market. If you've been communicating with farmers and vets long, you know this is an audience that does not suffer the pretender graciously. They can smell the guy who doesn't know his stuff, in person or in content. That's the reason content marketers sometimes bail out and waffle, at the precise moment they should lean in to really say what their brand stands for.


Find out more about how to put brand journalism to work.


Click for a sample
Walco Animal Health's Dairy Health Update program included a high-quality quarterly magazine, digital presence, a cusomized lead-followup system for all field divisions and collaterol marketing campaigns, all aimed at building longterm customer value for the sponsor by post-sale nurturing that encourages customer retention.

Foster longterm value

Traditional ag journalism gave up the shop when it turned itself into stenography rather than story-telling. That's good news for content marketers with the vision and courage to lean in and really stand up for what their brand believes. This is what that strength of voice looks like, through the words and pictures of Mike Smith.

Fearless ag journalism for a fearful age

The paradox of modern journalism is this: As the traditional advertising-based funding has dried up, the demand for quality information has only increased. For the visionary professional association, the opportunity to become the go-to source has never been better, as the National Grocers Association demonstrated when it revamped its fatigued show-based magazine into "i magazine" by calling on the design, editorial direction and writing capabilities of Mike Smith

Take back the mantle of authority

Who better to teach the technical aspects of your customer's business than your own experts? Farmland Industries' Practical Health series, including beef- and dairy-cattle health-care magazines, a collateral newsletter to help dealers capitalize on the program, and a pilot horse and companion-animal care spin-off magazine, all worked to turn that company's dealers into the center of expertise in helping customers work through animal-health buying decisions. Can you think of a better invitation to sell?

Want permission to sell? Then educate


Step 1: Choose your audience

Picked your Audience?

Ag marketers use print magazines at a rate nearly two-thirds higher than the average marketer, with just under seven in 10 saying they still make use of magazines in some way. Why? Fewer and fewer farmers every year taking a larger and larger market share means today's ag customer requires a long-duration sales cycle emphasizing after-sale nurturing and focus on long-term customer value. Targeting the existing customer base makes print content a natural customer-retention tool.
Step 2: Set objectives

Defined your Objectives?

This is not your father's marketing communication. It's not even your older sister's. Custom content, print or digital, in today's market has to answer to a tall order when it comes to performance standards: Strategically concepted, flawlessly targeted, carefully executed and fully held to results controls.
Step 3: Hire Mike Smith

Hire the Best

Once you have the audience and objectives and you need the inspired mechanic to put his hands on the job and execute from the beginning concept to the final ROI evaluation and all points in between, call. With decades of content experience, I am your content marketing advocate not afraid to get dirt under his fingernails.
Need that content project turned around now?
Click here to send me an RFP

Custom Publications by Mike Smith

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24195 W. 63rd St.
Shawnee, KS 66226

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