Oregon’s Agricultural Progress Magazine

EESC’s 60-year-old, award-winning research magazine embraces the digital age.

Situation

EESC has been publishing Oregon’s Agricultural Progress (OAP) for 60 years. The magazine helps the state’s taxpayers understand the impact of agricultural research on their lives and livelihoods.

“We translate the discoveries of Agricultural Experiment Station scientists into stories that engage people who are not involved in agriculture and who might otherwise think that agricultural research has little effect on their lives,” said Peg Herring, OAP editor and EESC’s department head.

OAP has always been known for engaging storytelling, compelling photographs, and great design. It has an impressive resume of regional and national awards from the Association for Communication Excellence (ACE) and other organizations. Over the years, however, the challenge has been to keep up with changes in publishing technology and the ways people prefer to receive information.

Our Approach

EESC’s OAP team has embraced the digital age. In 2013, Adobe granted EESC a free, one-year license—valued at $100,000—to experiment with their new, high-end Digital Publishing Suite and demonstrate educational applications for their new tools.

“That set the stage for rethinking publishing and the tools we choose for projects such as OAP,” said Jeff Hino, EESC’s learning technology leader.

With this new software, the magazine could become an interactive experience in which users not only read stories but also view videos, slideshows, and 360-degree photos. In the summer of 2013, EESC writers, photographers, and videographers fanned across the state with cameras, notepads, and audio recorders in hand to interview scientists at OSU’s branch experiment stations. They gathered material for an ambitious, larger-than-normal issue of OAP to commemorate 125 years of OSU’s Agricultural Experiment Station research.

Results and Impact

In January 2014, EESC unveiled the special anniversary issue in three formats: the print edition, a redesigned mobile-friendly website, and an app for tablets. It has about 20 multimedia pieces and dozens of stories on research from every corner of the state.

Though future OAP issues won’t be as large, multimedia and web content is now an essential part of story planning rather than an afterthought. And the OAP team is collaborating and cross-training more than ever. For the next issue, each story is assigned to a team consisting of a writer and multimedia producer. This is the new normal for EESC.

EESC plans to evaluate the impact of these new formats, but it’s too early to report results. EESC typically conducts readership surveys for OAP, which has a circulation of 12,000, every 10 to 12 years. The last survey, conducted in 2004, received a remarkably high 76-percent response rate. In that survey:

  • 97 percent of subscribers rated the magazine as informative or very informative.
  • 51 percent said they usually read more than three quarters of each issue.
  • 79 percent said they pass the magazine on to others.

Dan Arp, dean of OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences and director of the Agricultural Experiment Station, finds OAP stories helpful when meeting with donors, advisory committees, and legislators.

“OAP is a high-quality news magazine that one can show off with pride,” Arp said. “It's based on great stories and great work and it's very accessible to readers. It makes a great 'leave behind' for legislators and other stakeholders.”

Partners

OSU Agricultural Experiment Station; OSU College of Agriculture; OSU Agricultural Research Foundation; OSU Extension Service