The business press is a major source of news about company events, governmental regulation, job leads, industry sales, and even investment leads, since the business press frequently writes about emerging business trends before they are noticed by the general mass media press. The business press provides in-depth news features about individual companies and the issues facing different industries. It examines how business really operates and how it should operate. While business management books can take years to move from idea to research to the book store, the business press tackles the same issues on a monthly, weekly, daily, and sometimes hourly basis.
The business press includes a variety of disparate media. It can include the business section of the daily newspaper and the weekly business tabloid found in most cities. It also includes national daily, weekly, and monthly general business newspapers and magazines like the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Fortune and Forbes. And most recently, its scope has expanded to include Internet-based business news and features.
Trade magazines make up the biggest category of the business press. Each industry has at least one magazine covering it. There are literally thousands of magazines dealing with the day-to-day business intricacies of nearly every conceivable business. It is safe to say that no matter how small or new an industry is, there is—or soon will be—a trade magazine or newsletter that covers it.
Besides its importance for helping company owners and managers keep abreast of what is happening in their industry, the business press also offers many marketing and public relations opportunities. Many businesses selling only to other businesses use the trade press to promote their products and services through advertising and news exposure. While the mass media is busy selling deodorant and gasoline over the TV, the business press is selling industry-specific products through advertising that is usually more detailed and informative.
This focus also allows companies to get more detailed news coverage than they could expect from newspapers written for the average consumer and taxpayer. The trade press focuses on industry issues, new technology and how to use it, and new products. What newspapers may consider mundane information coming from a local company could be big product news worthy of extensive coverage in the trade press.
The history of the business press is one of the most diverse in all of publishing. Most early coastal colonial newspapers covered business news regularly by printing the arrival days and cargo manifests of ships docking at the wharves. As businesses and the nation grew, newspapers began to publish separate business sections. By the late 1800s when formerly small businesses were becoming national "industries," the first trade magazines came on the scene. National business press publications came along in this century to cover the country's emerging economic power. Today's business press has expanded to the point that business news junkies can watch cable TV programs reporting live on what is happening in the stock market.
Two types of business publications are found on a local level in most metropolitan areas: the local daily newspaper's business section and a weekly business tabloid (e.g., Crain's New York Business) covering the companies in that locale. Besides general news concentrating on the major employers in the city, both publications usually feature local business columnists, management-level new hires and promotions, times of meetings of business clubs, and coverage of how local company stocks are doing. The tabloids—usually owned either by a chain specializing in this type of publication or by a newspaper syndicate—run special sections focusing editorial and advertising on special topics such as the environment or health care. These business tabloids offer good opportunities for business people to build public relations through local coverage if they can demonstrate how their companies are having an impact on the community.
Many states also have at least one magazine covering the companies based in that state (e.g., Colorado Business Magazine). Frequently owned by a larger news organization, state business magazines concentrate on features and regular in-depth articles on their states' economies. Most publish an annual economic outlook for the state. Because the numbers of companies to cover are so large, PR opportunities are usually limited to "pitching" editors on the reasons why the magazine should run even a small feature on a particular business.
Thousands of trade magazines, and an even larger number of subscription-only newsletters, cover only news pertinent to their industries. A few of the large trade journal publishers are also heavily involved in managing industry-specific trade shows that complement the subject matter—and advertising—in their journals. The journal and trade show activities are sometimes referred to as the business-to-business segment of the business press.
Other departments of a typical trade journal include new product sections, which sometimes offer color photographs and detailed tests of the products by the magazine's staff. New hire sections and classified ads show where job openings are all over the nation. Many trade magazines have a legislative action section that covers state and national regulatory news that would never be carried in the local newspaper because of its specialization. Most trade publications feature interviews with industry experts and detailed stories about successful and innovative practices.
The trade press can be very receptive to PR pitches if the news is important in the industry and if the company making the pitch is willing to cooperate with the magazine's editors and writers. The company seeking the publicity must be as open as possible with the magazine and go beyond the press release that probably started the media contact. While trade magazines have more respect for press releases than most newspapers or national business magazines, few trades will print a release that makes a bold claim without investigating first.
National business publications usually take in the big picture, looking at the largest and most innovative companies. One exception is the Wall Street Journal's front page feature that focuses on quirky, sometimes small, business efforts or unusual social trends. Newspaper coverage includes general, factual wire reports that are distributed through organizations like the Associated Press, but most of the business reporting, particularly feature articles and analysis, comes from the newspapers' own staff.
National business periodicals include the so-called Big Three: Business Week, Forbes, and Fortune. The large periodicals focus on topics of popular interest and controversy. Usually they aren't as comprehensive as newspapers, but are more likely to offer opinion and analysis. Most of the smaller magazines appeal to niche markets. For example, Inc. magazine is a national monthly that reports on small- to medium-sized businesses and presents strategies for small business management. It is written mainly for lay people who may have little or no formal business education or background. Other niche markets include prospective new business owners, investors, women entrepreneurs, and minority-owned businesses.
Since the mid-1990s, the Internet has transformed the business press by providing a new conduit for information distribution. It also represents a new locus of competition among traditional business publishers and technology-savvy Internet publishers. All of the major print newspapers and periodicals maintain substantial Web sites that feature all or most of their print products' content, and many offer special sections that may only be found in the electronic version. Many of the regional and local business tabloids and magazines also have some online presence, but their Internet publications typically are not on par with their print editions. The trade journals also tend to be underrepresented on the Internet, even though a number of the larger ones have built effective subscription or pay-per-view sites.
The economics of business publishing are also changing because of the Internet. Though it is a controversial practice in the industry, many of the top national publications offer current stories and features online for free. They then charge for access to archived editions and other features on the site, but, as in print publishing, most of their revenue comes from advertising. However, most publishers have not yet obtained enough external funding for Internet sites to turn a profit.
A diverse list of players make up the Internet-based business press. Some, such as Business Wire and PR Newswire, publish only press releases and major headlines and don't offer much in-depth or unique information. Others concentrate on one type of information, such as stock quotes and investment information. Finally, some major business sites are presented by media companies that don't have a strong footing in the print segment. These include Bloomberg.com , from the electronic financial news service Bloomberg L.P., and CBS MarketWatch, a joint venture between CBS News and Data Broadcasting Corporation.
In addition to expanding on the Internet, some business print mainstays have begun to move into other media, such as television. For example, in 1998 Farm Journal Corp., publisher of the trade monthly Farm Journal, bought a syndicated television news program. Publishers like Farm Journal have taken this approach as advertising in print media stagnates or declines. According to a report in Business Marketing, such extensions also allow publishers to build stronger brand identities for their publications.
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