Thrive Grows by Leaps and Bounds

During its first decade of publication, Thrive has grown to meet the needs of a broader and increasingly digital-savvy audience.
Thrive covers show the magazine’s broad coverage of the ag industry over the past decade.
Thrive covers show the magazine’s broad coverage of the ag industry over the past decade.
In 2007 when Syngenta decided to launch a magazine, the informational needs of its retail partners were top of mind. At that time, the consolidation of print farm publications was on the rise, and very few outlets focused exclusively on ag resellers. Thrive would enable Syngenta to deliver news stories into readers’ offices on topics that mattered most to them, such as agronomics, industry innovations, upcoming trade shows and ag policy.

Ten years later, these partners are still front and center when Syngenta develops the content for each quarterly issue of the magazine. But Wendell Calhoun, marketing services communications manager at Syngenta, notes that over the past decade, he and his Thrive team, like other farm editors and broadcasters, have tapped into “an avalanche of technological advances” that are enabling them to reach more people in less time.

Changing With the Times

Thrive has grown from a print-only publication with an audience of about 8,000 resellers to a multifaceted media outlet that reaches close to 50,000 ag professionals. In addition to resellers, Thrive is now a resource for growers, policymakers and other industry experts who need to stay abreast of production best practices, important policy issues, the ag community and Syngenta innovations moving from the laboratory to the field. This growth is largely due to the creation of a digital version in 2012.

Rod Swoboda, editor of Wallaces Farmer, owned by Penton/Farm Progress, observes that about 10 years ago, many ag publications began hosting websites in addition to their print publications.

“Then came e-newsletters, and more readers wanted to receive information on their laptops, tablets or smartphones,” he says. “There has been widespread adoption of digital publications, especially in the last five years, and we’ll see a continual shift to digital.”

“It takes a village to develop this publication, and that includes the resellers and growers featured in Thrive.”

Wendell Calhoun
Moving forward, a greater proportion of the farm population will be digital natives, Swoboda says. “By 2027, people born in 1980 will be 47 years old—a prime age in agriculture,” he says. “The rate of the shift to digital will accrue.”

This shift means that more and more resellers and growers will be reading their news on the go. “We can reach people wherever they are—even if they’re planting a field or harvesting a crop,” says Ann Bryan, senior corporate communications manager at Syngenta.

Analytics comparing 2017 readership patterns to those in 2016 show that the momentum for viewing Thrive on mobile devices is building. In just one year, the number of people who accessed Thrive on their smartphones or tablets increased 292 percent.

From left to right: Stephen Swoap, creative design lead; Ann Bryan, senior corporate communications manager; and Wendell Calhoun, marketing services communications manager, are the core Syngenta team for Thrive.
The impact mobile-friendly information has on ag audiences in general will continue to tick up, research predicts. In a 2016 Agricultural Media Channel Study by Connectiv, 36 percent of growers and ranchers said that ag-related websites will be “more” or “much more” important. Thirty-four percent said that mobile websites will gain in importance in the near future. And 24 percent of the respondents said that ag-related apps on mobile devices also will gain in importance.

Another 21st-century innovation that has drastically changed the way the ag community communicates is social media. In a 2016 survey by CropLife Media, 60 percent of ag-retailer respondents said they found value in using social media for work purposes, up from 15 percent in 2013. About 75 percent of the respondents also said they used social media one hour to six hours per week for work purposes, up 7 percent from 2013. As a result of surveys like this one, Syngenta regularly posts Thrive content on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

A Sound Editorial Approach

“Even though the vehicles for conveying information are changing, one thing remains constant—readers want relevant, original content delivered in a timely fashion,” Swoboda says.

That was the goal for Thrive in 2007 and remains so 10 years later, Calhoun notes. While articles in the print edition and on the website feature solutions paired to growers’ needs, Thrive limits promotional messages. The mission for Thrive continues to be delivering credible, valuable information to readers. “Other publications have contacted us to repurpose information in their publications,” Calhoun says. “This extends our reach.”

After 10 years of publication,Thrive magazine from @SyngentaUS continues to grow.

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One of the key aspects of Thrive’s editorial approach has been its reliance on visual content to make its stories more accessible. “We use professional photographs, custom illustrations and infographics extensively for both the print and online versions of Thrive,” says Stephen Swoap, creative design lead at Syngenta. “We also feature images of real people, including resellers and growers, to help bring the stories to life visually.”

In the past 10 years, Thrive has received more than 50 regional, national and international awards, Calhoun says. Most recently, it took first place in the Publication—Print or Electronic—Category at the 2017 American Agricultural Editors’ Association annual awards. This win was Thrive’s fourth consecutive first-place finish in that category. The association also awarded second place to Thrive in its 2017 website category.

“We attribute such stellar awards to outstanding teamwork,” Calhoun says. “It takes a village to develop this publication, and that includes the resellers and growers featured in Thrive.”