The agricultural sector employs almost half a million people in the UK and spends lots of money on expensive kit. It’s no surprise therefore that there’s a host of magazines vying for farmers’ attention. Alan Geere shines his spotlight on six of them.
British Farmer & Grower
What’s it about: ‘The voice of British farming’ – ident on website.
Vital statistics: February 2018 issue: 100 pages of 297mm x 210mm. Gloss paper, heavier cover, perfect bound. Free to NFU members. Combined ABC of 49,716 (Jan-Dec 2016) all from print. Published monthly by NFU.
Cover: Dominant image of sheep herded into a heart shape (a library picture from 2013) with tie-in headline, three promos along the foot of the page, masthead, logo and dateline.
Content: ‘View from the President’ on page 3, facing an ad that looks very similar (green headline, dull picture). Followed by contents spread neatly promoting Regulars, Features, Member Benefits, Your Region and Sectors. Each of the eight geographical regions has its own section full of dedicated news and pictures, a neat touch which also pulls in its own advertising. All very orderly without ever really taking off.
Digital: Follow the directions at the foot of every page to the general NFU website, where the BF&G has its own page with content behind member log-in. NFU has 42k Facebook likes and 52k followers on Twitter. Some videos from yesteryear on YouTube (latest March 2017) and 122 pictures on Instagram.
What they say: “A quick flick through Twitter tells me the world is going to hell in a handcart. I’m off to read a nice book.” – editor Jo Travis on, er, Twitter.
Verdict: Does the job as a members-only publication, promoting the messages from the NFU hierarchy without coming across too pushy. Plenty of display ads from suppliers and a chunky ad feature (Crop Care, since you ask) demonstrate the value behind a quantifiable, highly defined audience.
Farm Machinery Journal
What’s it about: ‘The magazine for modern farm machinery’ – strapline just squeezing in under the trim over the masthead.
Vital statistics: February 2018 issue: 116 pages of 297mm x 210mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. £3.99 cover price. Circulation of 12,898, according to latest media pack. Published monthly by Sundial Magazines in Beckenham, Kent.
Cover: Three pictures of farm machinery in various action poses, four well-crafted three section coverlines, two cross-refs and the big, clear masthead. Also, imaginative use of the spine to detail contents for the well-organised reader who stores the magazine properly.
Content: Lively contents spread with page numbers on pictures clearly lays out that we are in for: Front Link, Features, Buying, Technical and, of course, Rear Link. A perky layout and clever headlines bring these beasts of the field alive. A free classified section is proving a hit and all rounded off with readers’ photos – of farm machinery, of course.
Digital: Come-on to the website at the foot of every page, which looks lively enough but keeps back enough content from the printed magazine to make those subscription offers – print and digital – look attractive. Links to Twitter with just 962 followers, not surprising as there’s been no activity for more than three years and Facebook, which is rewarded with 7,539 likes for better housekeeping.
What they say: “If you were to survive a global catastrophe, ending civilisation as we know it, there’s just one piece of equipment you’d need to get started again – a plough” – editor Peter Skilton coming over all apocalyptic in his ‘Welcome’ message.
Verdict: Generous photography and some high calibre advertising help give the publication an expansive feel. Credible and accessible, it has all the nous of a B2B mag with the creativity of a consumer publication.
What’s it about: ‘The heart of agriculture’ – tagline under masthead.
Vital statistics: January 12, 2018 issue: 96 pages of 305mm x 210mm. Lightweight gloss paper, self cover, stitched. £3.25 cover price. Combined ABC of 30,658, all from print. Published monthly by Farmers Guardian Ltd in Preston.
Cover: Mini-newspaper approach with lead, accompanying picture, three illustrated come-ons, big masthead and strapline cross-ref across the top. All very neat and headline – ‘Boiling point’ – fits well even though it’s sadly meaningless.
Content: A joyously spare ‘Inside’ panel on page two tells you all you need to know then into news that straddles politics (Gove gets a going-over) and hard news (sea eagles snatching lambs). Opinion, letters, a generous business section, arable and sales before a whopping great 30-page classified section interestingly placed mid-book. Market prices in mini-point with graphs provide the vital info along with a crossword and cartoon. Came in a polybag with ‘free’ machinery and tractor magazine.
Digital: Newsy website has regular updates and a transparent ‘views’ tracker so you can see who’s looking at what. Tiny social media links to tiny Twitter (1,925 followers) and Facebook (1,996 likes) audience. Classified ‘Buy and Sell’ section has its own website.
What they say: “Roger from Exeter, would you please ring me again please. You did not leave your correct telephone number for me to contact you” – ‘Widow’ making the most of the Rural Partners online dating service.
Verdict: Put together with sensible journalistic nous and still bearing the hallmarks of its previous incarnation as a newspaper. A welcome throwback to the days when editorial content and advertising came together harmoniously to deliver a thoroughly satisfying all-round read.
What’s it about: ‘Working for your farming future’ – strapline over masthead.
Vital statistics: 12 January 2018 issue: 100 pages of 300mm x 210mm. Gloss paper, heavier cover, stitched. £3.50 cover price. Combined ABC of 47,967, with 375 from digital. Published weekly by Reed Business Information in the agricultural heartland of Sutton.
Cover: Big pic of a ‘revamped shovel’ (huge machine, not a spade), two mugshots (one man, one cow), two other small pictures, eight coverlines in total and a striking red on yellow masthead.
Content: Skip over the over-indulgent flannel panel and well-written editorial – by the editor, no less! – on page three and into a comprehensive, well-illustrated contents spread that also includes links to stories on the website. Ten pages of very newsy news. One spread has a badger cull activist wounding a farmer, a police drone swooping on hare coursing activists, a farmer fined for polluting a watercourse and a close-up of a sheep killed by marauding dogs. Business, letters, livestock, arable and machinery are all lively and approachable while the back end is filled with ads for machinery, those all-important mart prices and some job ads (remember them in the printed media?).
Digital: Tons to read at a neatly developed website, including nice touches like the weather and the opportunity to browse ‘107,514 offers’ in the classified section. Scroll all the way to the foot of the page for links to Twitter (70.1k followers) and Facebook (100.3k likes) as well as LinkedIn and YouTube.
What they say: “Formal journalism experience is preferred but not essential. However, applicants should have a good aptitude for writing and an enthusiasm for developing interesting storylines…£38,000 salary” – ad for deputy business editor.
Verdict: Very professionally assembled. The headlines fit and make sense and the content flows well throughout. Sensible, grown-up approach to incorporating digital and enough to distract any busy farmer both in print and online. And all this every week!
What’s it about: ‘THE PROFESSIONAL FARM MACHINERY MAGAZINE’ – tagline under masthead, just visible behind the, er, farm machinery.
Vital statistics: January 2018 issue: 92 pages of 297mm x 210mm. Quality gloss paper, heavyweight cover, stitched. £3.99 cover price. Combined ABC of 10,584. Published monthly by Kelsey Media in Kent.
Cover: Five pictures featuring eight items of farm machinery and eight headlines throwing to stories on designated page numbers. Big all lower-case headline incorporating website url.
Content: A modular contents spread points to what’s what inside. Flip straight to ‘Tractor test’ and readers are treated to a thorough working over of a machine for buyers “wanting a big wad of spec”, so it’s not all techno-speak. A plough and combine get similar treatment. Machine management, new products, used machinery and technical all deliver detailed commentary. Came in polybag with free ‘AirGunner’ magazine (£4.25).
Digital: Newsy website has regular updates and links to tests, videos and photos plus a link to the German sister site and also a link to a Russian one, which sounds interesting, but doesn’t work. Twitter (7,467 followers) romps along with some interesting retweets and more than 10,000 likes on Facebook.
What they say: “More unbelievable pictures of machinery mayhem from around the world, An ideal stocking filler!” – ad for ‘profi Machinery Mishaps 6’.
Verdict: A good spread of display advertising throughout shows just what the market thinks of this solid offering. Dedicated and detailed, it pays homage to a vital and lucrative sector of the agricultural market.
The Scottish Farmer
What’s it about: ‘Supporting farmers in Scotland since 1893’ – tagline under masthead.
Vital statistics: January 13, 2018 issue: 52 pages of 335mm x 267mm. Matt paper, gloss cover, stitched. £3.10 cover price. Combined ABC of 14,697, with 277 from digital. Published weekly by Newsquest in Glasgow.
Cover: Fairly traditional newspaper format with two stories, one picture, four write-offs, two promos and a picture cross-ref alongside the chunky masthead. Clean and functional.
Content: Lots of words in the opening ‘News’ section in a rather formulaic newspaper style; not surprising as it comes out of the Glasgow stable where The Herald and Evening Times are put together. No contents or index so readers must navigate themselves through sections like Opinion and Business before a generous preview of an upcoming machinery show. A healthy classified section and rounded off with Lifestyle that even includes some recipes, courtesy of an Aldi ad feature.
Digital: Not that much encouragement to visit, but a newsy website as befits a Gannett publication with lots to read and look at, courtesy of picture galleries. Links to Twitter with 10.6k followers and tweets politely signed off with the initials of the poster and 71.7k likes on Facebook. Social media neatly put together and regularly updated.
What they say: “Good to see young farmers look just that! A right bunch o' bonny chiels!” – poster on Facebook commenting on a picture of Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs members.
Verdict: Scottish farmers are lucky to have their own dedicated weekly publication put together with obvious enthusiasm and affection. Feels a little dated, but I don’t suspect that’s worrying the faithful readers too much.