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Agrimarketing : September 2009
September 2009 Agri Marketing 29 ANNIVERSARY IOWA FARMER TODAY TURNS SILVER by the Agri Marketing Editors The year 1984 was not for the faint of heart agri-marketer. Following a decade of prosper- ity, the ag economy was falling into one of its greatest depressions, prin- cipally due to overproduction, low prices and 20% interest rates. "I guess we could have picked a better time to launch," says Steve DeWitt, the first and only Publisher of Iowa Farmer Today (IFT), a weekly publication that is sent to 70,000 ag producers. "But it's a testa- ment to the soundness of our origi- nal business plan and our people who have been executing the plan so well over these 25 years." IN THE BEGINNING Before leading the launch for IFT's original owner, The Gazette Company, publisher of the daily Cedar Rapids, IA, newspaper, DeWitt had suc- cessful stints as an ad sales- person for a prominent ag magazine and as partner in the DeWitt/Judish ad agency. "As I studied the ag media landscape 25 years ago," DeWitt explains, "I thought there was a place for a weekly publication devoted to the interests of Iowa farmers. U.S.A. Today newspaper had been intro- duced in the early 1980s and it took the nation by storm with its splashy four-color graphics which no other newspaper was featuring, yet. I thought that look and feel would work with ag producers, as well. Combining compelling editorial with high impact graphics would grab the reader and increased fre- quency (weekly) would be a hit with them, as well as the advertisers." "I approached The Gazette Com- pany with the IFT business plan," DeWitt says. "They liked it, provided me with a budget and we got rolling. Along the way, we have added other properties under the IFT Publications banner. Missouri Farmer Today was launched in 2006 with the same model as IFT and has reached 19,000 circulation. Midwest Marketer is a weekly insert for our readers who are in the cattle business." As far as the staffing goes, five of IFT's eight top executives have been with the publication since its launch. The ad rep firm Bock and Associates and ad agency Davis Harrison Dion have each worked for the publica- tion since its inception, as well. Associate Publisher/Business Development Manager Terry Reilly reports, "The revenue model at launch is the same as it is today. We strive to satisfy the needs of national advertisers, implement dealers and other local advertisers and the Iowa farmer via farmer to farmer classifieds." "We were able to provide four geographic buys for our advertisers from the start," says Reilly. "That also made us unique. We have even made buys available along crop maturity zones. The seed and crop protection companies appreciate that." "Weekly frequency helped tremendously," DeWitt says. "Whereas, with the national publica- tions, an advertiser could only have three hits during the critical three winter months, we are able to deliver 13." Several other factors have con- tributed to the popularity of IFT. "From the beginning we made a commitment to audits and research to verify value to our advertisers," adds Dewitt. "We advertised on radio to boost readership and classified advertising. We pioneered wrappers to offer high visibility placement. We have kept our editor- ial staff strong to have the resources to cover timely, local news." And IFT has been able to actively support FFA, and land grant universi- ties including Iowa State, Missouri, Purdue, and Illinois." CHANGES Five years ago, Lee Enterprises acquired IFT Publications. "They are a ter- rific group to work with," DeWitt reports. "Lee Agri Media consists of eleven farm publications, which certainly demonstrates its commitment to the agricultural market. They have supported our expansion plans, such as Missouri, and have brought us many great ideas." CELEBRATING In its first issue in July, IFT kicked off its Silver Celebration by announcing a "Treasure Hunt" contest for its readers. Also, readers 12 and under were invited to enter a coloring contest. Four special issues are being published in September with in- depth retrospectives on machinery advances, crop and livestock changes, major events and the publication itself. "Our organization would like to sincerely thank our readers, advertisers and all of the great people who have helped make IFT the success it has been over the past 25 years," DeWitt concludes. "It's a pleasure to serve this industry, and especially the farmers who make it all happen." AM The Iowa Farmer Today crew gathers for a family portrait at its Silver Celebration picnic. Publisher Steve DeWitt (center with white cap) has been with the publication since its original inception and launch.
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