Those attempting to break in to the industry often try and take one of a tiny number of set routes, but there is an alternative. The often dismissed trade press offers numerous perks and opportunities to wannabe hacks.
The journalism job market isn’t in a good place. Wages are generally low (not that this is anything new, few of us get into journalism for the money). Papers are facing cuts which has led to redundancies, mergers and even papers closing down. Living and travel costs have risen which has made journalism a less viable career for those wanting to work in London.
This isn’t good news for those who wish to follow what now appears to be a small number of set routes into the bigger news organisations:
– Interning/Work experience: Taking on as many work placements as possible in order to get some bylines or a foot in the door is a common choice, but not a viable one in the long-term for those with rent and travel costs to pay.
– Freelancing: More and more common, especially with news organisations taking on more freelancers.
– Working up: Starting on a local paper and progressing up to regionals and nationals. However, local papers are being heavily affected by cutbacks. Jobs are available but the pay is usually measly and makes saving for the big move far more difficult.
Of course, none of these routes are wrong. They work for a great number of young journalists and many go far from these beginnings, but there is another alternative which is often disregarded or not considered by most.
The trade press – also known as Business to Business (B2B) – is a way in to the big names that has, for whatever reason, developed an atmosphere around itself which makes young journalists turn their noses up.
Trade magazines focus on niche areas of interest such as insurance, engineering or commodities.
They are seen by some as stuffy, boring, inaccessible and lacking the glamour and lifestyle that comes with working for a national paper or big magazine.
However, this is not necessarily the case.
I spoke to Chris Wheal (@Whealie), a lifelong trade press journalist about the perks of working in B2Bs.
“Personally I think the standards of journalism are higher in trade mags than any other sector. Nothing is universal – there are very high standards elsewhere and some trade mags are little more than glorified advertising sheets, but overall there are more good eggs than bad.
“The trade press is just as a good a route in to the nationals for those who want to, but the great difference between the trade press and local papers is that you are generally paid better in the trade press. Although wages have stagnated, graduates start on about £20,000 in major London magazines companies – even those on training schemes. Often journalists who started in local papers switch to the trade press after their first or second job. A good journalist, who can make and nurture a great contacts book will find top stories in any field”.
Very few young journalists (the foolhardy ones) would turn their noses up at a £20,000 starting salary.
The jobs themselves aren’t in short supply either. It only takes a quick browse of Gorkana to realise that while that dream job at the Guardian still hasn’t appeared, a whole host of B2B jobs pop up.
But for those worrying that the trade press is not going to provide the right experience for a job on the nationals, Wheal argues that they should think again:
“The nationals are staffed by hundreds of journalists who started out in the trade press.
One thing that those questioning the trade press normally say is that they aren’t experts and, therefore, won’t be able to work on a specialist magazine.
Huysman believes that this shouldn’t stop your application:
“You’re never going to know everything in life and eventually you’ll have to learn things. I didn’t know much about the industry but I learnt. I had to learn quite fast and there were times when I felt I’d been thrown at the deep end. But then it’s kind of exciting.
“No one expects you to know everything straight away, just show you are committed and willing to learn, that will get you somewhere.”
Working in the trade press can also help young journalists define and boost their USP (Unique Selling Point).
“One thing it does give you which is great is a specialist subject that will distinguish you from every other graduate who wants to get into the industry,” said Huysman.
The trade press, then, can offer a number of big opportunities to young journalists hoping to make their way up the ladder.
It has, like every job, its drawbacks. As both Wheal and Huysman have found out, the trade press can be an unpredictable sector. The B2Bs occasionally suffer from funding issues and have a heavy reliance on advertisers who can force editorial content away from criticising them.
Huysman’s advice on this is simple:
“Be careful. Every experience is different and you never know who exactly you might be dealing with, so just always be careful, but don’t get paranoid either”.
The trade press offers young journalists experience, better wages and a host of other perks. So next time you’re applying for jobs, don’t dismiss them. They could be a stepping stone to the nationals, but you also might find that they’re your true calling. In the current market, only a fool would turn down such an opportunity.
Don’t be that fool.
Do you break into journalism via the trade press? Would you now consider applying for a job in B2Bs? Let us know! Comment below or tweet us @WannabeHacks