Saturday, July 22, 2006

Heading for the summit

The Agriculture Media Summit kicks off this weekend in Portland, Ore. For the next few days several staff members from Capital Press will be attending the event to attend workshops that may help us do our jobs more effectively, talk with other people at agriculture media organizations and meet with some of the agriculture companies who want to get their message out to or through the ag media.

This will be my first time attending the event so I don't quite know what to expect. The good news for us is that the event is taking place fairly close to our home office. So we are going to be about to have several of our newsroom staff members there and I think some people from other departments will be attending as well. The bad news is that the days of the conference fall right on our heaviest production days of the week. So only one or two people may be able to go to the summit for more than one day.

The gathering is, as I understand it at this point, sort of a combination training workshop, convention and trade show for three organizations -- Livestock Publications Council, the American Agricultural Editors' Association and the American Business Media Agri Council.

Farmers and ranchers probably don't care a bit about the gathering. They are too busy to care about people from newspapers, magazines, websites and other media companies getting together. However, the gathering is for the people who produce media specifically for agriculture industries. The things that happen at that gathering, for good or ill, may affect what people see in their trade industry media in the future and how that message is delivered.

There are definitely some ag companies who think this is an important conference to attend. I can tell, because in recent weeks there has been a noticeable change in the mail coming to my desk. Since registering for the conference I've been getting mail from agribusiness firms who plan to have representatives there who can't wait for the opportunity to talk to agriculture journalists about their products or innovations. Some companies are making some of their high-ranking officials available for interviews during the conference. The reason? They want those reporters, writers and editors to do stories so their message gets into the hands of farmers and ranchers.

If you look at the list of sponsors for the AgMedia Summit, you'll notice something interesting as well. Competing agribusiness companies are allied in their support of this event. In most cases where sponsorships of events are involved, the event organizers offers some sort of exclusivity for people who are willing to help put money, goods or services in to cover the cost of the event and do the things that make events possible. For example, if you go to a big sporting event, you may see Budweiser signs, or Coors signs, or perhaps some other beer company sign. Whichever company is the official beer -- or hot dog, or car, or pickup, or whatever -- of the event almost always gets a monopoly. They get to fly their flag and sell their product exclusively on the grounds of an event for their product category. Ag event sponsorships usually work the same way. If John Deere signs on as a sponsor, Case IH or New Holland can't or won't. If Monsanto is in as a sponsor then Bayer, Syngenta and Pioneer are out. That is often at the sponsoring company's request or insistence. You want their money and help, then don't let their competitors have the same or better access or promotional space, or whatever. But for the AgMedia Summit you see some interesting sponsor banners "flying" together.

So, if you look closely at the ag industry trade publications and websites in the coming days, weeks and months, you could be seeing a fair amount of coverage that comes directly, or indirectly, from the things seen, said and done at the Agriculture Media Summit this coming week.

Look for an increase in Portland, Ore., datelines. That might be one big clue.

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