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During A Pandemic, The Land Report Magazine Publishes Its Largest Issue Ever. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Eric O’Keefe, Founder & Editor, And Eddie Lee Rider, Founder & Publisher…

June 11, 2020

Publishing During A Pandemic (36)

“Our goal is to educate individuals on the attractiveness of land as a long-term investment. That’s really what we’re about. What we focus on is finding those stories that show how people have pursued and developed a strategy with their land and what kind of returns they’ve enjoyed with their land.” … Eric O’Keefe

“We have targeted those private jet terminals in highly-trafficked areas that meet our demographic: Rocky Mountain states, Southeast, Northeast Corridor, and Texas, that’s where you can find our publication, especially now when the commercial air traffic has been so reduced, private air traffic is still moderately healthy. I believe the print product is extremely relevant for us and our audience.” … Eddie Lee Rider

Even during a pandemic, people are investing in, buying and maintaining land. And The Land Report is the magazine that profiles passionate landowners, identifies investment opportunities, explains ways to improve and conserve land, provides legislation updates, and highlights outdoor gear and equipment. I spoke recently with Eric O’Keefe, editor and founder and Eddie Lee Rider, publisher and founder of the brand and we discussed the operating of a brand during the pandemic.

For the most part, both the powers-that-be at The Land Report told me that business as usual has been the norm for them, except for the event space, which of course isn’t happening right now. But the hopes are that the events will be back up and going very soon and The Land Report can get back to 100 percent, because after all it is the magazine of the American Landowner.  In fact, The Land Report just uploaded their latest issue with 160 pages plus covers, “the largest ever for us,” says Eddie.

And now the 36th Mr. Magazine™ interview in the series of Publishing During A Pandemic with Eric O’Keefe, editor and founder, & Eddie Lee Rider, publisher and founder, The Land Report.

Eddie Lee Rider, Jr. and Eric O’Keefe

But first the sound-bites:

On how The Land Report has been operating during the pandemic (Eric O’Keefe): I don’t mean to sound unrealistic, but it’s been better than ever. From the editorial side, everything can be done from layout assignments, proofing, production, all of those elements can be done from home. Eddie, I’ll invite you to talk about our sales numbers.

On how The Land Report has been operating during the pandemic (Eddie Lee Rider): From last spring to this spring, we saw an increase in our ad revenue of a little over 75 percent, closer to 80 percent actually. It’s been remarkable. We have two full-time employees, everybody else connected with the business is a contract employee, freelancer or independent rep. Our business has not changed at all during this situation.

On why The Land Report in a printed format is relevant during these uncertain times (Eddie Lee Rider): Our demographics skew toward an older reader, our average reader the last time we did some surveys was 62-years-old. They like a print product. And our distribution lends itself to print in that we have teamed up with Sandow Media to distribute our publication through Signature FBOs (Fixed Based Operation) across the country. I believe the print product is extremely relevant for us and our audience.

Eddie Lee Rider

On any challenges they’ve had to face during the pandemic (Eddie Lee Rider): The first for me as publisher and head marketer of the publication was how do you get your editorial product, your advertisers’ marketing, into the hands of the most qualified potential investors and buyers? We tried the newsstand and that wasn’t a fit; you’re not going to generally find someone in a typical Barnes & Noble who is looking for a $3 million ranch.

On any challenges they’ve had to face during the pandemic (Eric O’Keefe): I’d just like to follow-up on your point, Eddie. We have a major client, a very well-known player in the industry, whose point is his company spends millions every year on marketing. And they know that two-thirds of their closed transactions will come from their own Rolodex. And his point to me and Eddie is how do I find that last 10 percent, and that’s where we come in. We are the ones who have created a distribution model that has effectively provided a portion of that 10 percent to get the client the right eyeballs on that property. And at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about, getting our magazine into the right people’s hands.

On whether there are any changes in store for them beyond the pandemic (Eric O’Keefe): I think it’s business as usual for us. When I look at all of the elements, whether it’s the marketing side – we never took up your brilliant suggestion. You had said that this magazine was made for a trade show. And something that included a lot of land-related vendors. And we never went that route. I think what you will see more of from our standpoint is, we’ve had some exceptional success with Land Report broker events by invitation only.

On whether there are any changes in store for them beyond the pandemic (Eddie Lee Rider): We have an event scheduled for the middle of July. These events are paid for by a single broker or brokerage and they hire us to do an event where we develop an invitation list of other brokers that have their own deep Rolodexes. We fly everybody into a location that’s normally a 24 to 48 hour event. We cover all of the accommodations and transportation. We have photographers on the ground, videographers. We get content for the magazine. By touring the property it creates a networking event, nobody else in our space is doing it. We’re averaging maybe one event per quarter.

Eric O’Keefe

On what keeps them up at night (Eric O’Keefe): On my part it’s always accuracy. The magazine has to be 100 percent spot-on and because it’s land, a lot of the minutiae is buried in public records. Fortunately, more of them are coming online and you can access them, but we’re the authority and we need to be 100 percent accurate. So that’s what keeps me awake at night.

On what keeps them up at night (Eddie Lee Rider): For me, I’m always worried about how do I get my advertisers’ marketing into the right hands. I mentioned that we have these relationships with these event companies, and obviously they’re not having events right now. They can’t meet in person. So, they’re meeting virtually. I’m reaching out and asking if we can get a mailing list of the people who will be attending the virtual conference and can we get a magazine into their hands?

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Eric O’Keefe, editor and founder, The Land Report & Eddie Lee Rider, founder and publisher.

Samir Husni: How has it been publishing The Land Report during the pandemic?

Eric O’Keefe: I don’t mean to sound unrealistic, but it’s been better than ever. From the editorial side, everything can be done from layout assignments, proofing, production, all of those elements can be done from home. Eddie, I’ll invite you to talk about our sales numbers.

Eddie Lee Rider: From last spring to this spring, we saw an increase in our ad revenue of a little over 75 percent, closer to 80 percent actually. It’s been remarkable. We have two full-time employees, everybody else connected with the business is a contract employee, freelancer or independent rep. Our business has not changed at all during this situation.

The land business has been extremely resilient. It is the ultimate social distancing, to have a piece of land, to have a cabin, to have a ranch, somewhere you can grab the kids and the family dog, grab some groceries and get out of Dodge for a few days or weeks if you can. Our clients are having a lot of success in this environment and it’s proving itself in our advertising numbers.

Eric O’Keefe: One thing to keep in mind is that we’ve been through the Great Recession of 2008-2009, we saw the dotcom bubble burst in the late 1990s, we’ve seen a whole wave of magazines come and go, we’ve seen a lot, and so much of it in my opinion is the fickle finger of fate. Are we in the right niche at the right time? And that will determine quite often whether one succeeds or fails. Right now when people are looking to shelter in place and they want to do it in a manner that gives their families an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and be healthy, that falls right into our laps.

We have an article on social distancing in Montana. Some of our biggest advertisers, our best sources of anecdotal data are in Montana and they have certain markets where there’s no inventory available anymore. They have completely sold out. So I say that to compare to the Great Recession 10-12 years ago when you were actually seeing brokerages take it on the chin and brokerages and land-related advertisers are base, and they took it on the chin in 2008 and now they are seeing an acceleration of business. There are all sorts of numbers to support it, leads, web traffic, as well as sales. So, I really feel that we’re fortunate in that regard.

Samir Husni: You deal with something tangible; you deal with land. Why do you think The Land Report as an ink on paper platform is relevant, since everyone can do everything virtually these days? Going out and actually experiencing the land in person isn’t the same as a virtual tour of that same land, is it the same for the printed magazine experience?

Eddie Lee Rider: Our demographics skew toward an older reader, our average reader the last time we did some surveys was 62-years-old. They like a print product. And our distribution lends itself to print in that we have teamed up with Sandow Media to distribute our publication through Signature FBOs (Fixed Based Operation) across the country. We have targeted those private jet terminals in highly-trafficked areas that meet our demographic: Rocky Mountain states, Southeast, Northeast Corridor, and Texas, that’s where you can find our publication, especially now when the commercial air traffic has been so reduced, private air traffic is still moderately healthy. I believe the print product is extremely relevant for us and our audience.

Eric O’Keefe: With the addition of drones, you can take a virtual tour, it offers a real opportunity from a seasonal standpoint, if you’re looking at beautiful meadows in the middle of winter when it’s a snow filled Colorado ranch…so now you have to actually see what the ranch is about. So, I think it’s been a tool for that. Also one of the things that we do is we profile individuals who have a passion for a certain piece of property. That could be something historic in Mississippi, someone could be multigenerational on a plantation, someone could be multigenerational in a New England small town.

One of the things that we do, which is unlike anyone else in our space, is we have strong editorial content. There are a lot of magalogs out there that produce ad after ad after ad, and quite honestly, we know them all. And some have told us that they don’t want editorial. They want a picture book for then people to go to the website and do exactly what you’re talking about.

I’ll share another profile; it’s a $70 million piece of property that has just come to market in Virginia. It’s 7,000 acres between Charlottesville and D.C. And it’s gorgeous. It was assembled by a very passionate land steward. It is immediately adjacent to the first city of Washington and the nation, that George Washington himself actually surveyed in the 1740s. That can’t be so effectively communicated in a normal page view.

Forgive me for going off base here, but in the 1950s TV really accelerated. And the movie industry saw it as a threat. Suddenly, movies were trying to distinguish themselves. You had two and three hour movies, things like that. And you had all those multi-surround sounds and other items. I don’t see the online as a threat in that fashion. I see it as an enhancement. If you’re building a case for yourself to buy a piece of property, you’re going to look at the broker’s webpage, you’re going to read more about it in The Land Report, and then you might go to USDA figures online or take a look at what sort of values have been developed over the years by Mississippi State.

That’s one of the things that we really have in our favor is that land as an asset has been tracked, it’s values have been tracked by all of these state colleges, so we don’t have to replicate that information. We don’t have to say “according to a Land Report study,” it’s all out there. And these are top-tiered schools, so we can then use that to make our case about land’s resilience. When you’re looking at land for the most part, you want as many inputs as possible. And we’ve established ourselves as a key input.

Eddie Lee Rider

Samir Husni: What are some challenges you’ve had to face during this pandemic and how did you overcome them?

Eddie Lee Rider: The first for me as publisher and head marketer of the publication was how do you get your editorial product, your advertisers’ marketing, into the hands of the most qualified potential investors and buyers? We tried the newsstand and that wasn’t a fit; you’re not going to generally find someone in a typical Barnes & Noble who is looking for a $3 million ranch.

We’ve gone through different phases. After 11 or 12 years, we’ve found a really great formula of these private jet terminals, a data base that has evolved over those years, rural land professionals that can refer each other back and forth. The Wall Street Journal and other papers that can do home delivery of our magazine in key markets  from time to time, depending on what issues we’re doing. For  instance, the Texas issue that just came out, that was home delivered via The New York Times weekend newspapers in Houston and Dallas to select high net worth zip codes.

We’ve also developed a relationship with companies that put on conferences for family offices. Wealth management companies; we distribute our publication at those events. So, it’s really evolved into this mix of where can we get our publication into the most prequalified hands? And I think that our advertisers see that effort from us and they see the results from their phones ringing.

Eric O’Keefe: And I’d just like to follow-up on your point, Eddie. We have a major client, a very well-known player in the industry, whose point is his company spends millions every year on marketing. And they know that two-thirds of their closed transactions will come from their own Rolodex. And his point to me and Eddie is how do I find that last 10 percent, and that’s where we come in. We are the ones who have created a distribution model that has effectively provided a portion of that 10 percent to get the client the right eyeballs on that property. And at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about, getting our magazine into the right people’s hands.

Our goal is to educate individuals on the attractiveness of land as a long-term investment. That’s really what we’re about. What we focus on is finding those stories that show how people have pursued and developed a strategy with their land and what kind of returns they’ve enjoyed with their land. And there are all sorts of effective strategies for preserving wealth via land that may not be available to you via your house there. It may not be available to you via your financial assets, but land on the other hand can be managed very effectively, in terms of minimizing  estate taxes and lowering value.

Eddie Lee Rider, Jr. and Eric O’Keefe

I’ll give you an example, conservation easements, which could benefit a family that has income through another source; a 1031 exchange, which is basically when you sell a piece of income-producing property like land, you’re not taxed if you buy another larger parcel. These are not available to people who normally invest in markets.

And yes, you have a downside to land. Probably the most obvious one is ill equity, you can’t buy and sell tens of thousands or even 10 acres quickly. Land is typically established as an anchor for a portfolio. It’s not meant to day trade. This market and what’s been going on with the pandemic, one of the reasons why it’s fascinating to me from a transaction standpoint is some people are actually trying to liquidate some of their more valuable property so that they can go into the equities markets because the opportunities were so great there. And they can get back into the land, but the stock market was down at 17,000 after being close to 30, and you just knew it was going to come back.

From my standpoint, Eddie elaborated on getting it into the right hands and yes, we made all sorts of direct mail pitches that were complete belly flops, just negative responses. But from the editorial side, it is such a rich, uniquely American asset. I was talking with someone recently and before women got the right to vote they could own land. What’s the first asset that a freed slave could own? They could go west and they could own land by the Homestead Act.

There are just so many elements, older elements and newer ones. Eddie and I are constantly getting stories of who’s buying what great pieces of property. When we launched you may have seen our stories on Ted Turner and then John Malone became the nation’s largest landowner.

Now you have people like Jeff Bezos who is launching his rockets from his 400,000 acre ranch. Another land story. So, what are you going to do on your piece of land, that’s my approach. Are you going to launch rockets or raise elk or are you going to fly fish or track migrating birds? And the fact that Eddie and I have, what we call “permission givers” in terms of a Jeff Bezos or a Ted Turner, some of these very large operators that get us eyeballs, makes it very easy from the editorial side.

Samir Husni: As we look beyond the pandemic, any changes in store or will everything move forward in the same way?

Eric O’Keefe: I think it’s business as usual for us. When I look at all of the elements, whether it’s the marketing side – we never took up your brilliant suggestion. You had said that this magazine was made for a trade show. And something that included a lot of land-related vendors. And we never went that route. I think what you will see more of from our standpoint is, we’ve had some exceptional success with Land Report broker events by invitation only. So, we’re going to do more of our events, where we actually go and preview a property with brokers. And we show them what’s coming to market or what’s on market.

Those will obviously take place more frequently, but other than that, I think it will be business as usual.

Eddie Lee Rider: I totally agree. We have an event scheduled for the middle of July. These events are paid for by a single broker or brokerage and they hire us to do an event where we develop an invitation list of other brokers that have their own deep Rolodexes. We fly everybody into a location that’s normally a 24 to 48 hour event. We cover all of the accommodations and transportation. We have photographers on the ground, videographers. We get content for the magazine. By touring the property it creates a networking event, nobody else in our space is doing it. We’re averaging maybe one event per quarter.

These events us with content and help us to create working events for our brokers who many times know about each other, but they’ve never really met. We bring them in from all over the country. It’s a very successful model for us.

Samir Husni: My typical last question, what keeps you both up at night these days?

Eric O’Keefe: On my part it’s always accuracy. The magazine has to be 100 percent spot-on and because it’s land, a lot of the minutiae is buried in public records. Fortunately, more of them are coming online and you can access them, but we’re the authority and we need to be 100 percent accurate. So that’s what keeps me awake at night.

Eddie Lee Rider: For me, I’m always worried about how do I get my advertisers’ marketing into the right hands. I mentioned that we have these relationships with these event companies, and obviously they’re not having events right now. They can’t meet in person. So, they’re meeting virtually. I’m reaching out and asking if we can get a mailing list of the people who will be attending the virtual conference and can we get a magazine into their hands? Can we partner more with papers to do the home delivery?

I’m constantly obsessed with how I get my marketing partners’ messages into the right hands. And that’s what keeps me up at night, but I think we’re doing a job of overcoming that.

Samir Husni: Thank you both.

 

One comment

  1. […] pandemic, people are investing in, buying and maintaining land,” writes Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni in his blog. “And The Land Report is the magazine that profiles passionate landowners, identifies investment […]



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