Guest Post – Rosie Niven: trade magazines

Rosie Niven II

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.


10 Responses to Guest Post – Rosie Niven: trade magazines

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Guest Post – Rosie Niven: trade magazines « Wannabe Hacks --

  2. Hi,

    I left City last year and have been at Construction News a few months. I know graduates tend to overlook the trade press because I did myself – everybody on the course was all about the nationals and I didn’t really put much thought into alternatives until very near the end of the year.

    The truth is, there isn’t enough space on the nationals for everybody so it’s best not to rule anything out. Working as a reporter on a good trade mag is very similar to working on a niche city desk at a national. You need to break big stories about FTSE 100 firms and you have to be good with complex financial reports. You also cover your fair share of political events.

    If you’re hoping to get into business reporting and haven’t had the nationals knocking down your door, I think it would be wise to consider the trades. It’s the only place I can think of where you’ll get the opportunities to compete with, and at times beat the nationals to stories.

  3. The Chancer says:

    Some really interesting views Rosie, great little insight to end with too!

  4. A lot of journalism students and grads would be surprised by how interesting they’d find trade title work. I’m freelancing for a website that serves an industry I’d never have thought could be anything other than dull. It is actually very interesting and I’m enjoying the experience. Would-be investigative journalists will find a lot more space for in-depth stuff on some trade magazines and websites. The Paul Mason blog linked to above is also an excellent read.

    • rosieniven says:

      Thanks for your comments so far. Patrick and Matthew have touched on an area I didn’t really cover in my post. There’s lots of scope for breaking stories in the trade press. You really get to cover a patch in much more detail than someone on a national paper and often beat journalists on the nationals to the stories.

      Also, you don’t have to have an interest in business to work on a trade mag. I was more interested in local government and social policy and found magazines that reflected these interests. However, journalists reporting on hard business news are in a fantastic position to move onto the nationals. Science is another key area. A lot of the names mentioned in my piece worked on computer magazines.

      Other journalists who worked on trade mags not mentioned in my post include Danny Finkelstein, Andrew Anthony and Rebekah Brooks.

  5. I agree, grads tend not to think trade and b2b mags are worth working for. I had a talk from the editorial director at Haymarket when i was at Uni, and it opened my eyes to what oportunities there are away from bigger and more well known publications

    I was lucky enough to recenly start working for a b2b media and marketing magazine. It has been an invaluable way to start out. With an interest in media and marketing, I don’t know of anywhere else where i’d get to learn more about this area, or get to write about it, including the creative, business, and tech side of the industry

    As with any other profession, it is definitly the case that working for a small company offers the opportunity to take on more responsibility and more chance to move up.

    It’s encouraging as well to know that journalists who start on trade publications make it on to nationals. It’s something I’d been wondering about, so thanks for the post Rosie!

    As usual, wannabe hacks are giving other wannabes all the info they need to know!

    • No problem Lynsey!

      For anyone else, if you think there’s an area or discipline in journalism that you want to know a little more about then we will be happy to find someone to talk about it, with insight and experience.

  6. rosieniven says:

    Congratulations on your new post Lynsey. Media / marketing titles are a particularly good platform for the nationals. There are quite a few journalists from trade mags working for the Media Guardian.

    Also, it is worth remembering that some specialists on the nationals know their sector so well that they effectively perform the role of a trade mag journalist. Simon Calder is a good example of this. He attends trade fairs and conferences, as well as covering the more glamorous side of the travel industry.

  7. Pingback: Sudden turn in the road « Rosie Niven

  8. Pingback: Don’t expect to be an expert in a new job « Wannabe Hacks

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