Digital Media’s Evolution and Impact on Telling Agriculture’s Story

by Bryan Bjerke
September 24, 2012

The Information Age has matured immensely in the last twenty years. Journalists and public relations professionals have gone from ripping wire copy and reading faxes to monitoring Twitter and stalking smartphones.

We spoke with a number of prominent ag communicators who say that digital media has become the dominant player, and that has changed the way we communicate with each other and who has become the editor/reporter/consumer.

Their dialogue describes key trends and behind-the-scenes secrets that marketers and PR professionals can use to reach media and consumers of content with effective and interactive messages.

We’ll also explore how agriculture’s story is being told through the use of these new digital tools.

A special thanks from Paulsen to all who participated in this study.

  • Charlie Arnot, CEO of the Center for Food Integrity
  • John Blue, chief of community creation for Truffle Media
  • Jeff Caldwell, multimedia editor for Successful Farming
  • Justin Davey, mobile media producer at Meredith Publishing
  • Gregg Hillyer, editor in chief for Progressive Farmer
  • Bart Johnson, edits and publishes Ohio’s Country Journal and Ohio Ag Net
  • Lynn Ketelsen, farm director for the Linder Farm Network
  • Mark Lambert, senior communications manager for the National Corn Growers Association
  • Amanda Radke, South Dakota rancher and the daily blog editor for BEEF Magazine
  • Tom Steever, broadcast journalist with the Brownfield Network
  • Willie Vogt, editorial director at Farm Progress Companies
  • Chuck Zimmerman, president of ZimmComm New Media

Thanks to digital media, reporters and editors have been joined by bloggers and other citizen journalists taking advantage of the open access we all now have to information and opinion. The technology has also created new challenges for editors and reporters. Charlie Arnot, the CEO of the Center for Food Integrity, summed it up.

“The other thing that’s really changed radically, which I think creates just a phenomenal opportunity, is the transition from mass communication to masses of communicators. And the opportunity for us to now begin to find those discreet channels to tell our story in a way that connects with the very specific audiences that can have the greatest influence on how we operate.”

Charlie Arnot

It is now a digital democracy, with every owner of a smartphone and a blog or a Twitter account becoming a voice that is heard. A thoroughly vetted and edited story by a journalist, published in an established media outlet, can be beaten to the punch by a blogger with an opinion, well informed or not, and spread quickly throughout the Internet. But, as Arnot noted, it also creates opportunities that didn’t exist before.

For Jeff Caldwell, multimedia editor, Successful Farming, digital media has created the opportunity to be more connected with his audience. Digital media has allowed journalists and audiences to connect and form mutually beneficial relationships.

“It’s put me in contact with the consumers of the content I generate. It’s really ramped up the speed of the business. It’s made it easier in a lot of ways in how it keeps me connected and grounded to the folks that I serve. It’s a lot easier to become friends almost with some of the guys we seek information from regularly. It’s made it a lot more frequent and more intimate; a lot more familiar.”

Jeff Caldwell

Caldwell believes a line between traditional media and social media no longer exists.

“Social media is already an antiquated term. It’s all social now to one degree or another.”

Jeff Caldwell

The digital demand is placing new challenges for ag media. Radio, TV, print reporters, writers and editors have to know how to gather news in every format.

“There’s always going to be new, cool stuff,” said John Blue, chief of community creation for Truffle Media. “But then you have to decide how you use that as a business, and you still have to go back and think about what’s your objective, what’s your goal.”

“More and more digital is driving some of our decisions and how we gather stories and news.”

Gregg Hillyer

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