Getting Acquainted with the Major Trade Magazine Publishers

Most readers will already be acquainted with one or more trade magazines, and that's all to the good. What this chapter will do is give you just the briefest glimpse into the world of trade magazine publishers, focusing primarily on the largest conglomerates.

Like many other segments of business, trade magazine publishing has undergone a tremendous amount of activity in mergers and acquisitions. One company in particular, Primedia, has aggressively moved to the forefront in the trade magazine world during the 1990s. When they haven't pursued an acquisition, they have pursued other beneficial business ties, often with some interesting joint operations or mutual ties. By the time I finished typing this article, for instance, I suspect they will have closed yet another deal.

Primedia has grown from a company known as K-3. The company works on what I consider a great premise which they proclaim on the home page of their web site: "For every person, there's at least one special interest. For every interest, there's a desire for information."

If that isn't the heart of modern magazine publishing, I don't know what is. Altogether, Primedia publishes 222 magazine titles, 220 consumer and business information products, such as new home guides and apartment guides, owns 47 trade shows and has more than 175 web sites. In 1998, sales were about $1.5 billion and there were about 7,000 employees. Not bad for a company founded in 1989 which didn't even have its Initial Public Offering until 1995.

One magazine published by a Primedia subsidiary is Folio, the magazine of magazines. You'll be surprised at how many consumer publications you see in the local grocery store are produced by Primedia. There is no particular guiding light other than "people with a special interest" so they produce books as diverse as New York, American Baby, Seventeen, and Soap Opera Digest. They have an entire group targeting just youth with such mags as Teen Beat, Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine.

When you get to specialty publications--which are often on the border between consumer and trade publications--Primedia's Special Interest Publications Group and its McMullen Argus Publishing subsidiary put out such well known "niche" magazines as Cats, Horticulture, Lowrider Magazine, Mustang Illustrated, Street Rodder, Surfing, Truckin', Volleyball, Crafts Magazine, McCall's Quilting, Shutterbug, Southwest Art, Nautical World, Horse & Rider, Equus, County Journal, Vegetarian Times, American History, British History, Early American Homes, Bowhunter, Fly Fisherman Magazine, Pro Football Weekly, Sail, and my personal favorite, VW Trends. And folks, I have barely scratched the surface with this list.

More to the point about the importance of trade magazine publishing. Primedia's first acquisition in 1989 was to acquire the technical and trade publisher Intertec which was first begun in 1886. Along with this acquisition, the company also acquired the Macmillan Book Clubs, renamed as Newbridge Communications, and voila, the Specialty Media and Education groups were in business. For trade and business writers, Intertec is a very important subsidiary. It publishes about 100 trade magazines and newsletters, and its book publishing arm has more than 350 books in print.

The company proves that it is possible to get synergy through trade magazine publishing because they publish in several industries: Ten publications are dedicated to Agriculture; Automotive, and Trucking, 11; Communications and Entertainment, 17; Electrical, 5; Municipal, 5; Health & Fitness, 2; Real Estate & Investing, 5; Mining and Construction, 11; Printing and Packaging, 4; Apparel & Textiles, 4; Facilities Management, 3; and Marketing and Publishing, 10, including Folio, the magazine about the magazine industry. It makes sense that Primedia would publish Folio because one of its other products is Bacon's Directory which is an essential list of publishing industry and other media contacts.

But Primedia's situation, and Intertec's in particular, is instructive. With the demise of general interest magazines that began in the late 1950s, major magazine publishers have increasing pointed to readers with a "special interest" who want specialized information. Although specialized, many of Intertec's titles have more than 100,000 subscribers which is an amazing number for a trade magazine. At the same time, they also have profitable magazines with less than 20,000 subscribers.

The range of Intertec's publications cuts across so many industries that you could call them a "horizontal" trade publisher. But there are other publishers who do just fine with a "vertical" approach.

McGraw-Hill is one publisher who does very, very well with a vertical approach. McGraw-Hill's big moneymaker, of course, is Business Week. Begun more than 100 years ago, Business Week is not what I would define as a "trade" publication but a general interest publication about business and finance. In that sense its competitors include such magazines as Fortune, Barron's, some of the Crain newspaper chain, the Business Journal newspapers as well as the Wall Street Journal.

When a magazine reports on news across several industries, it is part of the "business press." In this category. In addition to the publications mentioned in the previous paragraph, the business press can include the business section of most daily papers and many independent newspapers and magazines that report on local, regional, or national news across a spectrum of industries. A true "trade magazine" reports specifically on a single industry. It may report some general business news, but almost always that general news will have an impact on the magazineís particular industry.

McGraw-Hill used to be broader in its approach to trade magazines, but it sold several off in the 1980s and consolidated its trade magazine efforts in two major industries, construction and aerospace. In construction, it publishes two of the most prestigious books covering the two broadest divisions of the construction industry. Architectural Record, which became the official publication of the American Institute of Architects two years ago, concentrates on the practice of commercial and high-end residential architecture. Engineering News-Record follows the news of actual construction in the industry--buildings, highways, utilities, you name it. They are among the most respected magazines in the construction industry.

Beginning in the 1980s, McGraw-Hill began acquiring a network of regional construction magazines under their Dodge Division which reports about new construction projects much like the Commerce Daily reports about government procurement needs. These publications, known as the Dodge Construction Publications, have a dominant position in many of the regions they serve with titles such as Intermountain Contractor, celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, the Denver Daily Journal, The Green Sheet in Los Angeles, Daily Pacific Builder in San Francisco, Louisiana Contractor, New York Construction News and more. These magazines are an example of how regional publications serving an industry can build an audience that values them more than many national publications.

McGraw-Hill's other prime trade publication is Aviation Week & Space Technology. This dean of all things aviation is supported by a variety of specialized trade newsletters such as Aviation Daily, Aerospace Daily, The Weekly of Business Aviation, Airports, ATC Market Report, Aero Safety & Maintenance and Inside Aviation/Aerospace IT known in the industry as Inside It. So well respected is this information source that its web site boasts 600,000 visitors per month. If you are in any kind of aviation management, Aviation Week publications are must reads.

While I must save a discussion of even all of the major trade magazine publishers for another book, there are some companies who are a must to know about, even when you don't think you will be writing for the industries they cover.

Cahners Business Information is another horizontal publisher whose list of publications is so long that it is difficult to think of an industry where they don't have at least one publication and often more. I counted more than 130 magazines on a recent search, including such well known titles as Variety and Publisher's Weekly, which are among the trade magazines that have developed a popular following as well. Within their industries, however, such magazines as Lasers & Optronics, Library Journal, and Interior Design are read with a fervor usually reserved for the New York Times.

That's the good news. The bad news, and this applies to almost every horizontal publisher I've dealt with, is that there is almost no consistency in pay or frequency for using freelance writers between the publications. As a freelancer, if you write for Building Design and Construction, you likely will make less but be paid faster than if you write for Professional Remodeler.

Another horizontal giant is Miller Freeman, a company founded in 1902 that originally specialized in natural resource industries but has broadened into a wide variety of industry markets, including the lucrative computer, electronics, construction, information technology and health care industries.

Miller Freeman, based in San Francisco, also publishes over 100 magazines and 40 directories in Europe from its London subsidiary, Miller Freeman plc. Miller Freeman Asia publishes about 40 magazines and directories in Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lampur. Although I have never had a single problem with the company in terms of copyrights, such a global spread is becoming common in the trade magazine industry, and especially with the proliferation of online versions of trade magazines. Writers must take special care to understand what rights they are selling and be ready to stick to their agreement and have the publisher do the same.

Penton Publishing is also a highly respected publisher of trade magazines. Some of its flagship publications reach more than 150,000 readersóa higher circulation than many national consumer publications. It has publications covering construction, hospitality, manufacturing, metals, and distribution. Industry Week, its flagship publication, is a must for managers in major manufacturing companies, and sister publication, IW Growing Companies, is followed closely by managers in smaller manufacturing firms. In one sense, these two publications are "business press," but they are actually targeting what could be called the "management" industry.

Penton has nine divisions whose flagship magazines include: A/E/C Systems, Design Mart and Electronic Design in the design field; Restaurant Hospitality and LH (Lodging Hospitality) in the hospitality industry; Government Product News in the government procurement market; Internet World in the electronic information market; American Machinist and NC Shop Owner in the metals industry; Contracting Business and HPAC (Heating/Piping/Air Conditioning) in construction; and Transportation & Distribution and Material Handling Engineering in the distribution industry.

Giant Ziff-Davis Inc. defines verticality. From its basic winner, PC Computing, which is something between a trade magazine and a specialty publication, the company has developed a range of trade and specialty magazines that reach into every nook and cranny of computer applications and information technology

Given this base to build on, Ziff-Davis has forged ahead to new frontiers with free online newsletters, twenty-one as we write, and a variety of other electronic and print products which offer many opportunities to trade writers who have a bent for computing.

We've spent some time with the high profile publishers, but there are many other large firms with multiple books that need to be mentioned.

Ziff-Davis's main competition comes from IDG (International Data Group) which publishes the popular PC World. With more than 290 publications in75 countries, IDG claims to be the world's leading publisher of computer magazines and newspapers, a claim that few would dispute. Some of its largest titles include Macworld, InfoWorld, Network World, Channel World, but also such highly targeted trades as Computer Reseller, Federal Computer Week, Publish, CIO, and Info-Tech Magazine in Canada.

The good news for trade writers is that articles can be easily translated for publication in other IDG publications. That's also the bad news, because you must be careful about what rights you are agreeing to sell. And with the overburdening presence of on-line editions, especially with a computer-savvy publisher such as IDG, your best protection is to read the contract BEFORE you sign it.

IDG also has a claim to fame as a book publisher of interest to some trade writers because it produces the popular "...for Dummies" series.

Advanstar covers application technology, art, beauty, call centers, energy, entertainment and marketing, fashion, healthcare, information technology, landscaping, motor vehicle, OEM processing, paper, pest control, pharmaceuticals, science and technology, telecommunications, travel and hospitality.

Bill Communications focuses on sales and marketing management, event planning, plastics, automotive, assisted living, hospitality, apparel, information management, retailing, and food processing, retailing and service.

BPI Communications is a kingpin in the coverage of the entertainment and media industries with books such as Billboard, AdWeek and American Artist, but it also hits the design and construction markets with Interiors and Architecture, and support markets for entertainment, media, and yes construction, with publications such as PDN (Photo District News).

Business Communications Company, Inc., primarily publishes newsletters and technical journals rather than trade magazines, but they do accept the occasional freelance piece. More to the point, if you are following a cutting edge high-tech industry other than computers, you probably will want to look at some of the information they provide in areas such as genetic research, battery and fuel cell development, medical materials and much more.

Business News Publishing is my kind of company because they have a tremendous list of publications for construction and construction materials with such industry leaders as Walls & Ceilings (interiors), Stone World, SNIPS (sheet metal contractors), PHC Profit Report, Plumbing and Mechanical, Floor Covering Installer, Roofing Contractor--twenty-seven publications by my count.

Canon Communications focuses on the medical products and device industry with publications such as Medical Device & Diagnostic Industry, Medical Product Manufacturing News, IVD Technology, Medical Electronics Manufacturing and Medical Plastics and Biomaterials.

CMP Media is a competitor for Ziff-Davis and a good one. Their flagship publication is BYTE, but Information Week , Network Computing, Computer Retail Week, Datacommunications, PlanetIT, UNIX World, and Electronic Buyers News all enjoy a very good reputation within their industries. Along with BYTE, Windows Magazine has become a staple for the consumer market as well.

Well know as publishers of automotive repair books, Chilton is also a major trade magazine publisher with a wide range of magazine targeted, naturally, to the automotive and transportation industries, but also with leading publications applying to manufacturing operations in a range of industries such as Manufacturing Systems, Food Engineering, Industrial Maintenance and Plant Operation, Industrial Safety & Hygiene, Jewelers' Circular-Keystone, and in healthcare with Review of Ophthalmology and Review of Optometry.

Commerce Publishing Company specializes in the retail and insurance industries with magazines such as American Agent & Broker and Life Insurance Selling, and Decor and Art Buyers Caravan.

Elsevier Science, part of publishing giant Reed-Elsevier, primarily publishes journals of science and medicine. Most of these are peer-reviewed journals that offer little opportunity for freelance writers except in the area of editing articles for contributors.

Fairchild Publications, owned by the American Broadcasting Company, focuses on the apparel industry with leading titles such as Women's Wear Daily and Daily News Record (for menswear), and the retail grocers' industry with Supermarket News.

Gulf Publishing is a leader in trade magazines for the oil and gas industry. Some of its leading titles are Oil & Gas Technology, Pipe Line & Gas Industry, Hydrocarbon Processing, and World Oil.

Hart Publications is a division of Phillips Business Information, Inc. Like Gulf Publications, Hart's strength is in the oil and gas industry with such successful titles as Oil and Gas Investor, Oil and Gas World, Petroleum Engineer International, and Lubricants World.

The forest products industry is covered by Hatton-Brown Publishers, Inc., which produces Timber Harvesting, Timber Products, Southern Loggin' Times and Panel World. Additionally the company produces Power Equipment Trade for independent lawn and garden dealers in the U.S. For Harley-Davidson enthusiasts, it also produces one consumer specialty magazine, Iron Works.

Speaking of consumer specialty magazines, trade writers should also be aware of the specialty magazines published by the Hearst Corporation which include such well known titles as Popular Mechanics, Harper's Bazaar, Good Housekeeping, Country Living, Motor Boating & Sailing and more including widely popular consumer publications, Cosmopolitan and Esquire. The specialty magazines, particularly the ever changing myriad of shelter publications and special issues revolving around Good Housekeeping and Country Living, offer the trade writer a chance to expand their markets and visibility, a subject we'll cover later.

ISC, Inc., is a leading publisher of scientific journals and tabloids covering biotechnology, clinical disciplines, and environmental testing laboratories. In North America it produces publications such as American Laboratory, American Biotechnology Laboratory, American Clinical Laboratory, American Environmental Laboratory, and Managing the Modern Laboratory. It also publishes in Europe and Asian markets.

Lebhar-Friedman is a leading publisher in the retail trade with titles such as Chain Store Age, Drug Store News, Home Center News, Restaurant News, and Discount Store News.

Lippincott Williams & Wilkins publishes trade periodicals targeting the medical industry and its professions. Most of its publications are peer-reviewed journals, but is important for medical writers to be aware of because it is a prolific publisher of monographs and books as well. In fact, LWW may be the fastest growing of all the trade publishing companies as this book goes to press.

Perhaps of more interest to article writers is the Medical Economics Company which not only publishes trade magazines and books but also consumer guides of various kinds--the ones you find in a doctor's office. For trade writers who don't specialize in the science of medicine, Medical Economics Company covers a wide range of health care business in titles such as Assisted Living Business Report, BioWorld Financial Watch, Business & Health, Case Management Advisor, Cost Management in Cardiac Care, Dental Practice & Finance, Employee Health & Fitness, Healthcare Purchasing News, Healthcare Risk Management and many, many more.

Meriod Corporation also produces seventeen Advance magazines that serve different medical disciplines with titles such as Health Information Executives, Occupational Therapy Practitioners, Medical Laboratory Professionals, Nurse Practitioners, Physicians Assistants and more. Most articles are written by practitioners, but some come from medical writing specialists who arenít practicing professionals.

Miller Publishing Company's publications revolve around the forestry industry, but go beyond into the products produced from trees, including the Import/Export Wood Purchasing News, the National Hardwood Magazine, and The Softwood Forest Products Buyer.

Mosby is a trade journal producer for the medical, nursing, dental and allied health industries, but some of their journals sit on the border between journal and trade magazine. Home Care Provider and Nursing Outlook offer the most opportunity to place articles that aren't peer-reviewed.

National Business Magazines, Inc., produces magazines that cover the commercial graphics industry with everything from AutoGraphics and Restyling for automotive graphics to Promowear and Printwear in the silkscreen industry to Digital Graphics for large format digital printers to Screen Graphics and Sign Business as well as A&E, a magazine for the awards and engraving industry.

North American Publishing covers the printing side of the publishing industry with magazines that cover packaging, marketing, graphics, direct mail, magazine and bookselling, mailing, form printing and mailing as well as media directories. It also produces products for the consumer electronics industry.

Odyssey Group produces publications that, for lack of a better way to put it, cover the enthusiast industry. It's premier magazines are Autograph Collector Magazine and Pop Culture Collecting Magazine.

PennWell Publications produces more than 39 trade magazines and newsletter in industries from energy and electric power to healthcare to information technology. This is one of the major publishers to know about if you are serious about building a freelance trade writing career. Some of their titles include Clean Rooms, Military & Aerospace Electronics, Solid State Technology, Industrial Laser Solutions, Vision Systems Design, Electronic Publishing, Energy Marketing, Utility Automation, Dental Economics, Offshore Magazine, Oil & Gas Journal, Fire Engineering, and Water World.

Petersen Publishing Company, although not a trade magazine publisher, publishing specialty magazines of interest to trade writers in the automotive, electronics, and sports retailing industry with title such as Home Theater Interiors, Portable Computing, Mobile Computing, Motor Trend, Truck Trend, Kit Car, Inline Retailer, Bike, Dive Report, and Surfer.

Phillips Publishing covers aviation, finance, and technology with titles such as Aviation Today, Technology Investing, Wireless Today, Cable Today, the ISP Business News, and the Hart Energy Publications previously mentioned.

Preston Publications focuses on the marine industry with Boat Motor Dealer, Marina Dock Age, and Recreational Boating News which straddles the line between trade and consumer. Photo Techniques Magazines is primarily for professional photographers. It also publishes two scientific peer-review journals, Analytical Toxicology and Chromatographic Science.

Quest Publishing Company publishes Treatment Today for the behavioral health and addiction treatment fields.

Randall Publishing controls the Construction Media Group and its Equipment World is one of the premier magazines for the heavy equipment industry. It also has top titles for the trucking/shipping industry with Trucking Co. for small trucking companies, Overdrive which serves owner-operators and fleet managers, and Truckers News for drivers. RentSmart! covers the construction rental industry.

Its Construction Media Group has just been acquired the Associated Construction Publications group which includes well known regional publications such as Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Midwest Contractor, Architect-Engineer-Contractor (AEC).

Although Rodale Press is primarily a consumer publications publisher, trade writers will find opportunities for crossover articles on health, outdoor recreation, residential construction and agriculture.

RP Publishing serves the alternative fuels industry and the companion animal field. Standard titles include Propane Vehicle Magazine and Natural Gas Fuels Magazine, and World Natural Gas Fuels Magazine. RP Publishing also publishes a consumer magazine for parents.

Scranton Gillette Communications is well know for its titles covering the heavy/highway construction industry. Roads & Bridges is its flagship magazine, but Water Engineering & Management, Water & Wastes Digest, Seed World, and Greenhouse Product News are also well recognized in their fields. It also publishes The Diapason, the official journal of the International Society for Organ History and Preservation. These are organs that you play, not organs that keep you alive. Now that's specializing.

SLACK Incorporated publishes healthcare information, education and association management products and services. Its journal publishing division produces more than 30 "independent and society-owned" publications in the medical field. Among these are newspaper formats such as Cardiology Today, Infectious Disease News, Ocular Surgery News and more. Although journals are peer-reviewed, a couple of titles accept advertising and walk the border between magazine and journal.

Sosland Publishing is a leading trade publisher for the food and food processing industry, particularly with grain-based foods. Among its top titles are Milling & Baking News, Baking & Snack, World Grain, Meat & Poultry, and Bakery Production & Marketing Newsletter.

With Fine Woodworking and Fine Homebuilding, The Taunton Press has proven a trade magazine can move into the consumer field anytime an interest develops beyond the industry practitioner. After all, the majority of the folks actually using the techniques in those two magazines are trade craftsmen and business owners, but hey, it doesn't hurt to drool over that beautifully crafted wood and those tools Iíll never master does it? Again, Taunton certainly offers an opportunity for crossover articles.

Testa Communications concentrates on the communications industry's various aspects with titles ranging from DJ Times for radio jocks to Sound & Communications for A/V contractors. Some top titles include Music and Sound Retailer, Producer, and Stage & Studio.

Like many modern trade magazine publishers, Vance Publishing began in 1937 with one magazine. Now it is divided into six operating division, each with several publications. A leader in agricultural magazines, Vance has three agricultural divisions: Livestock, Crops, and Produce. The livestock division includes Drovers Journal which is 125 years old. It's industrial division has leading publications on furniture, cabinetry and wood products, which ties in well with the Decor Division covering residential interior retail. The Salon Division divisions covers every element for a retail salon owner, and the Supermarket Retail Division's magazines extend the business cycle begun in agriculture.

Privately held, Virgo Publishing, Inc., specializes in "niche-market opportunities" with magazines on telecommunications, the embroidery trade, self-storage, sports licensing, outdoor products, advertising specialties, libraries, event management, haberdasheries and more.

Although not a trade magazine publisher, Warren, Gorham & Lamont is an important publisher for writers who focus on the finance industry. They are a leading firm in publishing journals, manuals, and books on corporate finance issues and taxation.

Watt Publishing Company publishes agricultural industry publications in poultry, meat processing, feed and pet food. With top titles such as Poultry Digest, Turkey World, Pet Food Industry, Meat Processing, and Feed Management, Watt publishes worldwide with specific editions for specific regions.

Webb Farm Press is actually a division of Intertec, but its publications are such an important resource to the agricultural industry that they are worth separate mention. The subsidiary produces both national and regional publications with titles such as Beef, Farm Industry News, Soybean Digest, and National Hog Farmer, but adapt articles to regional books such as California-Arizona Farm Press, Delta Farm Press, Southwest Farm Press, and Southeast Farm Press, all of which are regional weeklies in tabloid format.

There you have a briefóand let me stress the "brief"óround up of most prominent of trade magazine publishers. If you didnít see a title covering your field, donít despair. For one thing, this chapter didnít provide enough room to go into detail for all of these firms; and for another, as you look at every large publisher listed here, often several local and regional publishers for these industries exist.

Finding specialized trade magazines in your area can often be as easy as looking in the phone directory under "Periodicals, Publishers." By networking within an industry, youíll find your acquaintances and sources are reading publications you have never heard of, but should contact. In my region, for example, a wonderful bi-monthly publication entitled UTAD News covers the advertising and public relations industry in Salt Lake City. The issues cover not only agencies, but also vendors and venues, so it is prized by the media and their vendors here. And yes, it does provide an opportunity for freelance writers.

So check your neighborhood first. Learn about an industry in your own locale first because it will provide you with the resources you need. If you donít find an industry publication locally, the next sources to check are Baconís Directory, the Gebbie Directory, and Standard Rate and Data Serviceís Business Rates and Data, vol. II, and Healthcare Publications, vol 3. Consumer publications take up only volume I, so that should suggest what youíve been overlooking for market opportunities.