I’ve been thinking about writing for trade magazines a lot lately, and how this journalism experience could make me a better copywriter.
Feature journalism is still one of my top interests. Once, I was set on writing about the arts, such as music and film, but seeing how particularly tough these areas of journalism are to break into got me thinking about other writing options.
And that’s where the idea to write for trade magazines came from. For people my age and with my background (university graduates in their early twenties), it’s common to want to write about things that interest them. Such as the arts.
This is no bad thing. In fact, it’s probably easy for them to understand the wants and needs of their target audience because they’re part of that audience.
A music magazine, for instance, will be read by people who are interested in music and are curious about artist news. Someone who wants to write for this magazine will know this because they are one of those people.
Writing for trade magazines would get me thinking about audiences I wouldn’t normally consider, and by learning about them and getting an idea of what they want to hear, I can also improve my copywriting skills.
After all, copywriting is about understanding any topic and speaking about it with suitable language for the audience.
Opportunities and challenges
In her 1999 book Writing Features & Interviews, Christine Hall explains the advantage of writing for trade magazines ‘is that you have little competition. Trade magazine editors are not usually inundated with unsolicited manuscripts.’
She goes on to say that trade magazines ‘are business-oriented. The readers want to know how they can do better business, and how to save and earn more money.’
While a lot of businesses now have communications teams that specialise in writing about them and decoding industry jargon for a broader audience, I think Hall’s latter point is still relevant today.
I’m not sure there’s ever been a time when people didn’t want to save money. However, not every magazine will be solely focused on money-saving.
The challenge for me when pitching ideas is to make them relevant to the publication’s subject matter, and to make all of these ideas seem fresh.
I have to prove I understand the target audiences and know what they want. To do this, I have to read the magazines I want to write for and learn what their features are usually about. Then, I need to think of ideas that haven’t been covered before whilst showing I’ve understood what the features normally cover.
Proving my originality
Writing for trade magazines seems like a good way of learning about audiences that I wouldn’t come across when writing for arts magazines. But to get ahead in this area of writing, I need to prove I get what these audiences want whilst presenting fresh ideas.