Guest Post – Rosie Niven: trade magazines
September 30, 2010 10 Comments
This week, Rosie Niven tells us a little about trade magazines: one of choices that graduates sadly – and perhaps foolishly – overlook.
Rosie Niven started her career at Haymarket Publishing on the weekly Planning. In 2004 she moved to indie publisher New Start Publishing to work on a magazine for urban regeneration professionals. She is now assistant editor of New Start and freelances for clients in broadcasting and online media.
You know the section at the end of Have I Got News for You when they feature a publication so niche and obscure that you can’t believe anyone would ever read it? Well, when you say that you work on a trade or specialist magazine, that’s the kind of title many people have in mind.
The other reference point is Olivia Colman’s character in The Office who interviews David Brent for Inside Paper just before he is made redundant. I remember watching it while in my first job and felt it was very true to life – my magazine would probably also want to interview someone from the sector who was on reality TV. But unlike Helena I would be more interested in their views on their profession than their private life.
I’ve been fortunate to have been able to cover subjects with strong political and social elements, though I admit that there are some specialist mags with subject matter that I would really struggle with! I’ve also had some great interview opportunities including Bill Bryson and the American civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson.
The trade press is sadly overlooked by many graduates, yet the BBC’s Paul Mason, Robert Peston and Susan Watts, The Guardian’s Charles Arthur and Robert Booth and ITN’s Lawrence McGinty all spent time working on specialist magazines before moving into the nationals or broadcasting.
The problem is that many budding journalists have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to the trade press. Obviously jobs on the nationals, television and radio are among the most coveted, but there is also a kind of worthiness attached to the local paper that the trade press just doesn’t have.
This is a shame because trade titles, especially ones with an online presence are a fantastic training ground for journalists. While an intern on a national newspaper is sitting in the newsroom filing nibs, a rookie journalist on a trade title can be at press conferences, working on in-depth features or interviewing a government minister and getting paid for it.
They are also much leaner titles in terms of staff. This can make things tough, but it also means that you will need to be a multiplatform journalist writing for the web, blogging and sometimes recording podcasts. On independent titles you may also be able to influence editorial policy or suggest new projects.
The trade press is very competitive as Paul Mason points out in this blog about his days on Contract Journal. Few trade mags have the luxury of operating in a market without a direct competitor and with such a small potential readership, the clamour for their attention is fierce.
It is also possible to move up the ranks pretty quickly, if that’s what you want to do. Many of my contemporaries at Haymarket have gone onto editing magazines elsewhere. I heard last week that one has been shortlisted for an award for her work as an editor on a very prestigious trade magazine.
For the past year I have worked as a researcher for the BBC and as an online content producer for Channel 4 News on a freelance basis. But I still work part-time for New Start, which often provides me with some of my most interesting work, including plenty of opportunities to get out of the office.
And finally, a word on the featured publications on Have I Got News for You. Did you know that many editors suggest their own magazines to generate publicity? Surely not.