We spoke with Sara Wyant, the editor of Agri-Pulse and president and CEO of Agri-Pulse Communications, a leading voice in the agriculture industry. Their articles, podcasts and videos cover agriculture, food, rural and energy policy news.
The company has offices spread across multiple states. So, due to the remote nature of their work, the team needed technology that would enable them to collaborate effortlessly — wherever the news might take them. Agri-Pulse selected ePublishing’s Continuum platform.
Wyant says that since switching to ePublishing, they’ve seen a significant increase in pageviews. What was once roughly 50,000 views per month has skyrocketed to an average of 175,000 views per month.
In addition to their articles, Agri-Pulse releases short, daily podcasts that cover important policy news. We spoke with Wyant about their success with podcasts (their first episode featured then-presidential candidate Barack Obama), as well as how they overcame common obstacles with technology by switching to ePublishing’s tools.
ePublishing: Can you share a little background on Agri-Pulse and your role?
Sara Wyant: I started the company in 2004 and had a barebones budget, but I also had a very successful freelance business that was fueling my newsletter habit. I had been in print and controlled circulation businesses and wanted to go back to a subscription-only publication. By 2008, I had hired my first employee, who had a background in broadcast. We were a great pair. By the fall of 2008, we launched our first podcast, which we didn't know were called podcasts at the time.
One of our first interviews was with candidate Barack Obama, so that was a good way to put ourselves on the map. Since that time, we've added a lot of other audio options. We’ve even done some long-form podcasts. We start each weekday with Agri-Pulse Daybreak, giving everybody a preview of what's happening in Washington and around the country on agriculture and food issues. And we wrap up the day with them as well with our DriveTime podcast. I think what podcasts have really done for a lot of folks is whether you're working out, walking or on long drives, you get that flexibility to listen and learn.
ePublishing: Do you have any tips for publishers considering launching a podcast?
Wyant: Podcasts are a growth opportunity, and I would highly recommend that other publishers consider them. Ours are sponsored and free to anybody who wants to listen. The time it takes for our staff to do them is an investment in a good product with professional editing and music. It’s also educational for our staff as they conduct deep investigations into a topic. They learn things that might help them later on in their coverage or could perhaps stimulate ideas for additional podcasts. We're big fans of podcasts in general. Our ability to monetize them has just been more icing on the cake for serving our industry with an in-depth look at specific subjects as well as generating additional revenue.
ePublishing: What led you to changing your CMS platform?
Wyant: Our old site was pretty much tied together with baling wire, or at least it seemed so at times. But we grew and gained a more robust readership and diversity of content needs. We looked long and hard at options, and ePublishing was at the top of what we were looking for as a news site. We talked to some other folks that had sites with ePublishing and got good references. It’s been a mutually beneficial relationship.
ePublishing: What other challenges did you face before switching website platforms?
Wyant: We all know that there are things that go bump in the night in the publishing world, and you need a crew of people who understand how to fix things. We've been very reliant on ePublishing’s developers and their willingness to create things that are unique to us and to help us build tools that can better serve our readers, listeners and viewers.
We also use a lot of different social media channels to amplify our efforts, and this was something we asked ePublishing to work with us on. Originally, we couldn't push out content to social platforms directly from the site. It's been a pretty good relationship in terms of saying, "We need this to better serve our customers. How can we work together to build a customizable solution?"
ePublishing: What were some of the challenges you faced being a subscription-based website and moving to a new platform? Could you offer some advice for other publishers in the same position?
Wyant: We had to find a balance that lets people know we're a high-quality content site and that we're worth the price of admission. The ability to recruit new eyeballs to the site is something that we work on every day. We do that not only with compelling content, but also working with ePublishing to make sure that the site works as it should for new registrations and free trials, for those who will eventually become our subscribers. In recent years, we’ve hosted more events and webinars, which complement our content and help build our brand.
It’s important for us to have a good platform, the ability to track and the ability to promote: All of these things have worked together to help us grow to the extent that we are the most influential publisher on agriculture, food and rural policy issues. Both during and after the pandemic, we continue to have strong subscription growth.
ePublishing: Do you have any advice for publishers on engaging with their subscribers?
Wyant: It's really important for us as a publishing firm to listen to our subscribers and, more broadly, our community. We do a lot of outreach. We try to have them tell us personally what we can do better and how can we better serve their needs. We ask questions about the format being audio or visual, the length of content and the subjects themselves. People normally ask for subject matter they want covered. One of the things that is core to my own business philosophy is that every subscriber counts, and I want to make sure that we are maximizing our customer service, which includes being accessible for any of their concerns or comments and aiming to exceed expectations. We might not be able to do everything they request, but we're going to do our best job at serving them with high quality content.