There's been a lot written about the demise of mainstream newspapers and print magazines, but little is said about the trade press (e.g., industrial, association, and industry-specific magazines).
Over the past few years, many of the trade journals I contribute to (Managing Automation, Technology & Learning, Food Processing, etc.) have moved their content online to establish their presence in the new publishing paradigm and secure their future viability as print editions slowly shrink. Meanwhile, just as publishers have adapted to the new media, the cadre of journalists who work in the trades must also adapt to the shift online.
The trades, unlike mainstream media, have traditionally been a low-key, but rewarding career path for journalists. Freelance trade press editors, such as myself, establish themselves in a few key niches (mine being Information technology, manufacturing software & systems, food processing, and technology for education).
Today's reality for freelance journalists, whether they write for glossy magazines or for the trade press, must not only be experts on their beats, but must now move to establish their brand online, if they hope to become value-added resources their publishers.
The Value-Added Contributor
What's meant by value-added? Freelance trade press contributors have to understand and embrace social networking. Most established trade press veterans remain clueless about how to promote their work in the social medium of the Internet. I've made it my personal responsibility to promote new pieces whenever they appear on my publisher's sites. My publishers haven't asked me to do this task; however, I recognize that in this new environment, trade press stories can now be accessed by those outside the original low-circulation print editions. Through the magic of the Internet, they can now be viewed by the entirety of the Web audience. Soon, I believe, trade publishers will come to value this additional traffic as it expands their reach, drives traffic, and ultimately brings in increased ad revenues.
I want to be seen as a contributor that helps build this traffic for my publisher's sites. By doing so, I will also be building my brand online. As my Facebook and LinkedIn network expands, my work, which once only received exposure to a small group of engineers or school administrators, can now be viewed by anyone interested in a more in-depth coverage of a given topic, albeit of a technical nature.
I've established this blog as one means to sending out that content. I have linked my Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages to receive a feed from this site, which often features links to works I've recently published.
Go Brand Yourself
Most importantly, I want to ensure that the value I've created with my content is associated with my work as a freelance journalist. It's all part of my effort to add value to what I bring to a publisher, beyond the copy I produce. My strong Facebook and LinkedIn following amplifies my brand. As my brand becomes more valuable, it makes me a more valuable freelance writer in they eyes of Editor-in-Chiefs and Publishers, because I'm helping to drive traffic, which increases ad revenues.
So, if you want to survive in the new realities of the publishing business, start branding yourself even if you work in the trades.
My article, "Quality of Life Factors into Business Location Decisions," appeared in the January, 2009, issue of Area Development magazine. The article explores how quality of life concerns can sway the relocation of business to areas that meet their needs for housing, health care, education, and other parameters.
An article I wrote on alternative and renewable energy sources appeared in Food Processing magazine. Renewable energy is a topic that intrigues me, and it is one that I’ve explored in print a number of times over the past several years. I’ve written on this subject for Renewable Energy World and Managing Automation magazines.
I’m particularly keen to develop feature articles on the use of renewable energy in industries that haven’t traditionally focused on it.
Editors that seek the perspective of a B2B journalist on this subject are encouraged to contact me to discuss assignments.
My editor at Technology & Learning gave me a fun assignment at the end of last school year. He'd asked me to product a "to do" list for school CIOs. The resulting article appeared last May.
This feature is another example of how I've leveraged my years as an information technology editor with my interest in K12 education. The merger of IT and education is playing a greater role in the types of stories I'm pursuing–for a variety of outlets both online and in print.
In my last post, I mentioned the article I wrote for T&L about school CIOs and my good fortune in being able to blend my experience as a IT writer with my interest in education. Another article of mine that fits that mold appeared in a recent issue of Scholastic Administrator. The feature, titled Meet the Your New School Library Specialist, highlights the importance of the new breed of information specialists in schools.