“We’re not the first to discover this, but people like animals on the Internet,” said Jake Swearingen.
He’s digital director for Modern Farmer, a Hudson, NY-based print magazine with a strong web presence aimed at “people who care about where their food comes from.”
Playing off their own Sheep Week theme, they set up “LambCam,” a webcam broadcasting a live feed of sheep.
“Sheep Week is something we launched in April of this year,” said Swearingen. “We started the tradition of animal-themed weeks with bees, and people got into it. Picking narrow topics oddly lets you go deep and fully flesh out an idea, and our readers really respond to it.”
Modern Farmer first explored the animal webcam idea with Goat Week. One of the goats in the broadcast was pregnant at the time and gave birth on camera, sending traffic through the roof. As Swearingen put it, it’s “the miracle of birth meeting the miracle of Internet traffic.”
When it came time to kick off Sheep Week, Modern Farmer connected with Juniper Moon Farm in Palmyra, Virginia, which already had a live video feed of its sheep going out over the Internet. The Modern Farmer team “expected people to look at it, but didn’t expect how popular it would be.”
Don’t be fooled by the pastoral imagery inspired by the name “Modern Farmer.” Despite a relatively small editorial staff of six or so, Swearingen told us that Modern Farmer has “people formerly from LA Weekly, Buzzfeed, and the like, so we all have backgrounds where we understand social media, Internet traffic, and technology. Agricultural technology is ongoing and nonstop. All you need to do to see it is visit a farm machinery show — it’s a hugely technological field.”
What does 2014 hold for Modern Farmer? Swearingen said “we want to see how much bigger we can make [the website] and involve the community. We want to give farmers a forum where they can write in and tell their own stories.”