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Farmdoc daily marks anniversary with significant accomplishment

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[March 15, 2012]  URBANA -- Farmdoc daily, a website designed to focus on "Corn Belt farm economics," has reached a unique milestone. The fledgling website, directed at the commercial agriculture sector, has published one original article of research-based analysis and information every business day since it was launched on March 17, 2011.

Scott Irwin, the team leader for farmdoc daily, is the Laurence J. Norton Chair of Agricultural Marketing in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois. Irwin is also the leader of the team that developed farmdoc, the parent website, more than a dozen years ago.

"We wanted something that would complement farmdoc," said Irwin, "and it needed to fit with the technology that has undergone enormous changes in the last decade. Smartphones, iPads, blogs and social networks are now commonplace, but we could scarcely imagine them just a few years ago."

Irwin said farmdoc daily marries the "blog revolution" with the idea of a daily newspaper. "We wanted to use the blog format because it's simple, and it presents information the way people are used to seeing it electronically now," he said.

"But we didn't want to do a blog in the conventional sense of an opinion journal," he continued. "We are a public university charged with providing unbiased, research-based analysis and information. So we came up with an idea that was closer to a newspaper that published one article a day -- an original piece of analysis directed at a farm-level audience."

The response to farmdoc daily was immediate and has been overwhelmingly positive, Irwin said.

"We're up to roughly 30,000 visits a month and about 100,000 page requests on the site. Visits are growing at a rate of about 10 percent per month, and we add at least 100 people a month to our email list," he said.

Other team members and contributors include Darrel Good, Gary Hoff, Nick Paulson, Gary Schnitkey and Bruce Sherrick, all professors in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics; Dwight Raab, an Extension specialist in the department; and Paul Peterson, The Clearing Corporation Foundation Endowed Chair in Derivatives Trading in the department. Chris Hurt, a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University, and Carl Zulauf, a professor of agricultural, environmental and development economics at The Ohio State University, are also regular contributors.

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Recently, two posts from farmdoc daily were featured on the front page of AgWeb, the largest Web news service for agriculture around the world. "The Amazing Continuing Story of Natural Gas Prices," written by Irwin, and "Should I Sell My MF Global Claim?" written by Peterson, were given front-page coverage on the influential website.

"More than any statistic I can quote, I believe the use of those articles on the largest ag website in the world is a true indicator of our success -- that our vision was correct," said Irwin. "So we will continue to focus on the flow of those daily posts that address immediate and important topics and problems in agriculture.

"I knew when we began that we had something that was interesting and fun, but I never could have foreseen that it was going to be this successful this fast. We hit with exactly the right thing at exactly the right time," Irwin concluded.

[Text from file received from the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences]

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