In 2002, 120 years after first being established, NZFarmer was discontinued. But Fairfax Media’s new AgriMedia division is bringing the heritage brand back as a weekly print publication and rebranding Straight Furrow.
This move comes after Fairfax Media’s 2013 introduction of NZFarmer.co.nz, a website which serves as an online hub for the conglomerate’s farming news covered by daily regional papers.
According to a release from Fairfax, it has become the nation’s leading farming industry website, and this success served as impetus for the decision to reintroduce a weekly print edition.
“Our new Fairfax AgriMedia team is determined to be the most innovative and dynamic division within Fairfax, and NZFarmer will serve as our flagship brand across all titles and platforms,” says Fairfax AgriMedia brand manager Dean Williamson.
While it might seem counter-intuitive for Fairfax to collect a publication from the growing pile of abandoned newspapers, the newspaper readership figures released by Nielsen in February suggested that regional and special interest publications continue to have strong readership numbers.
Of all the newspapers surveyed by Nielsen in the fortnightly and monthly categories, only the Otago Southland Famer, which is released every two weeks, registered year-on-year growth, increasing its readership from 33,000 to 38,000.
This trend was however not reflected in the daily farming papers, with each publication surveyed suffering dips in readership.
Dairy News dropped from 83,000 to 54,000, Rural News went from 193,000 to 188,000, the Central Districts Farmer fell from 39,000 to 28,000 and the Waikato Times Farmer slid from 47,000 to 39,000.
Given these figures, the decision to release the paper on a weekly, rather than daily, basis makes sense, especially since the website will continue to operate alongside the print version.
According to a release from Fairfax, NZFarmer online will continue to report on breaking news, the weekly NZFarmer newspaper will tell readers about the people and stories behind the news.
“Our readers have been crying out for this kind of valuable information, delivered when and where they need it. It’s the people who make the agri-industry interesting and those are the stories we want to tell … We want to demonstrate that Kiwi farmers care for the environment, treat their animals well and are working hard to farm profitably and sustainably,” says the NZFarmer editor Jon Morgan.
Interestingly, this farmer-centric narrative mirrors that which accompanied the release of BrandWorld’s new masthead Field Trials, which also focuses on the agricultural industry.
While the decision to target farmers might seem unconventional, BrandWorld’s managing director Richard Stevens told StopPress that the farming industry is very lucrative.
“The rural sector is our nation’s backbone,” he said. “It’s also the single largest opportunity for many goods and services with around 68,000 holdings nationwide and an average per farm spend of $341,000 each year.”
And given that NZFarmer will be delivered to 85,000 homes free of charge, Fairfax will be relying on the fact that at least some of that annual agricultural spend goes toward advertising in the publication.