American Agricultural Editors Association Internship- Bethany Sanderson

I was the intern for the American Agricultural Editors Association, an organization made up a variety of ag communicators from writers and editors to photographers and public relations professionals. This year, AAEA chose Living the Country Life, a publication of the Meredith Corporation, to host the internship.

The Meredith Corporation is home to 14 leading magazine brands, including Better Homes and Garden, Ladies’ Home Journal and Midwest Living, and more than 175 special interest publications. They are involved with syndicated television and air in 50 markets nationwide. They are also active in broadband television, with more than one million video plays per month. A large section of the corporation is also devoted to integrated marketing. They have developed relationships with leading retailers like Walmart and Home Depot to promote Meredith brands and products, in addition to offering integrated marketing services to leading brands such as Kraft, Century21, Chrysler, Jonson & Johnson, DirecTV and more.

Living the Country Life, where I primarily worked, is a smaller publication that was launched in 2001 from Successful Farming. Instead of focusing on production agriculture, Living the Country Life focuses on people who live in the country simply to enjoy a rural lifestyle. They tend to be affluent and have a combined annual buying power of more than $32 billion.

Living the Country Life is a good example of a brand that has embraced the multimedia world consumers now interact with. In addition to the magazine, which is published quarterly with a circulation of 200,000, it has a website, e-newsletters, daily radio programs and until recently, a television program. The editor, Betsy Freese, also has a blog that she updates daily, and she manages Facebook and Twitter accounts for the brand.

The majority of my time at Living the Country Life was spent providing content for the fall issues of the magazine. I produced four stories for the issue, including the cover story on horse and stock trailers. I also worked on providing additional content for the beef cattle section of the website that is sponsored by Purina. I wrote and compiled a slideshow based on Beef Quality Assurance’s code of cattle care. Other beef stories I wrote are being held back in the “story bank” for another magazine issue, after which time Betsy may choose to post them on the website as well.

Although I did not have the time or opportunity to experiment with radio programming, I did participate in brainstorming sessions as the radio editors put together the calendar of topics for the upcoming fiscal year. They recorded programs based on several of my ideas.

As the AAEA intern, I had responsibilities related to Ag Media Summit as well. I was primarily responsible for the joint awards ceremony between AAEA and the Livestock Publications Council. I put together the script for those presenting awards and created the PowerPoint presentation for the ceremony This project required participation several days prior to leaving for the conference and also took up a significant amount of my time at the conference.

I also helped with decorating, registration, moderating sessions, putting up signs and other tasks at the conference as needed.

I enjoyed seeing first hand at Living the Country Life the reality of convergent media in the workplace today. While I hear about convergent media in the classroom a lot, it was exciting to see how this played out every day at the magazine.

It also served as a good introduction for me to using social media for professional and business purposes I watched Betsy Freese’s Facebook posts and tweets and had conversations with her about her philosophy of using social media to promote the brand. While she felt the purpose of social media was to drive traffic to their main website, she knew that limiting herself to only sharing links to their website would decrease her fans and following. Her posts and tweets were more balanced, sharing other news or sometimes a personal post about her life in the country, in addition to direction traffic to the website.

The most important takeaway for me, however, was the delicate balance of advertising and editorial content. While I knew in theory that advertising paid for magazines, I had no idea how much thought must go in to providing content that readers will enjoy and that keeps advertisers happy. This is a particular issue at Living the Country Life because it is a free magazine. All of their revenue comes from ad sales.

The publishing industry today is more than just writing stories and selling ads. The sales and editorial teams at the magazine work together to come up with an editorial calendar that they believe is optimal to sell ads (and thus pay for the magazine) to satisfy readers.

I enjoyed the experience in the publishing industry. If I decide to pursue a career in that direction, I definitely plan to look for a job that incorporates multimedia the way Living the Country Life does. I am also open to exploring the public relations industry or integrated marketing jobs similar to what Meredith offers.