North America’s oldest continuously published periodical is now preparing for its 225th edition! How did The Old Farmer’s Almanac not just survive but flourish?
The 2017 Old Farmer’s Almanac, arriving late this summer, is expected to resume its perennial position on many national best-seller lists. In a time when nary a day goes by without a story about the death of print media, The Old Farmer’s Almanac is a centuries-old media success story.
How Has the Almanac Thrived All These Years?
According to Publisher Sherin Pierce, the Almanac’s success is about having a team—from editorial to distribution—that is fully engaged in the product and dedicated to staying true to the brand’s identity.
“You can never take a year off,” says Pierce. “Sales might be strong, but that’s just reason to work even harder to truly understand the audience and how they engage with the book and the brand as a whole.”
During the past several years, the Almanac brand has expanded its reach from the tried-and-true annual print edition to encompass The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Kids, The Garden Guide, and a series of cookbooks with themes that resonate with Almanac readers, such as Comfort Food, Everyday Baking, and Cooking Fresh.
In late 2015, the Almanac launched EXTRA! from The Old Farmer’s Almanac, a monthly digital-only title that includes features on astronomy, history, gardening, DIY, food, humor, and even an updated weather forecast. This is the first monthly publication under The Old Farmer’s Almanac brand.
EXTRA! was born out of the evolving habits of Almanac readers: They like their Almanac as it is, but want access more than just once a year. And how do they want that interaction? Through smart phones and tablets.
“We started seeing that more and more of our audience was finding us on mobile devices—through our Web site, social media, or the digital editions of our print publications. Once we recognized this trend, we started to put more time and energy into these media and there’s been obvious payoff: Last fall, we gained our millionth fan on Facebook. Year-over-year sales of our digital products are increasing. A monthly digital magazine was the next natural evolution,” says Pierce.
The bread and butter of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, though, is the print edition, which sells millions of copies throughout the U.S. and Canada. A vast majority of these copies are sold on the newsstand, which Pierce calls “the lifeblood of the Almanac.”
How Do We Sell So Many Almanacs?
Pierce attributes the Almanac’s distribution success to three core principles:
- Don’t give up on newsstand. “Many times when publishers start seeing a slump in sales, they begin to cut promotions, and that has a snowball effect.”
- Keep investing in the product. In an age when print publications cut into pages to maintain profits, The Old Farmer’s Almanac has retained the same page count for decades. In addition, an up-front full-color section has replaced some of the traditional newsprint pages. “Visual articles—like those on gardening and food—just feel better in color, and this creates a better reader experience.”
- Listen to your retailers. Pierce and her team are in daily contact with retailers from all over the country. Many of these discussions center on how the product is being received by various audiences and how to better market it location to location. “I’m very proud of the relationships my team has built with our retail partners. We don’t tell them how to sell our product; we listen to how it makes the most sense for them to sell it to their customers.”
Publisher Pierce also stresses the importance of marketing across all channels to reach readers. This has been especially important for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, which faces marketplace confusion because of its name. Even though The Old Farmer’s Almanac is the most successful publication of its kind, there are a number of smaller magazines that utilize the generic term “farmer’s almanac.” Add to that, the Almanac’s editorial speaks to all ages even though it has the word “old” in its name.
“Every year, the release of The Old Farmer’s Almanac garners millions of impressions and mentions in traditional and online media,” continues Pierce. “This coverage continues throughout the year. We’re constantly reaching out to our fans on social media and working with retailers on floor displays and promotions.”
“Our readers keep the presses printing, and we endeavor to reach them however we can, whenever we can. We don’t take our success for granted. Despite the challenges we face as a print publication in a digital-dominated world, we have still managed to remain relevant by adapting to the times,” she adds.
The 2017 Old Farmer’s Almanac—the publication’s 225th edition—is available now at the online Almanac store. The Old Farmer’s Almanac is owned and operated by Yankee Publishing Inc. and is headquartered in Dublin, New Hampshire.