Trade Rag for the Rag Trade

Trade magazines are the primary documents of what’s going on right now, the bits of information that will become news tomorrow and history ten years from now.

Half the time they’re full of barely-disguised press releases and ads, but often enough there’s real news in them, waiting to reach the mainstream press. Things like Refrigerated and Frozen Foods, and its coverage of Hungry Man Dinners. Sure, that’s a glowing report focused only on Swanson’s upside, but it says to me: American men are killing themselves in record numbers. Heart attacks in the next ten years will not decrease. Obesity epidemic will not, uh, shrink. Or, for example, the very existence of Government Security Magazine, a new publication covering the new industry of homeland security.

I even like the ads, because they aren’t aimed at consumers. You see business in a way that it’s not usually presented to the public, insight into the way things are when you’re not looking.

And there are so many that you can subscribe to: magazines about catalogs, about soft drinks and water, about repossession, pensions, pizza. There’s even a site and magazine about trade magazines and how they work. And the advertising itself tells you what people are trying to sell, who’s buying it, and why.

Once I met a woman who wrote for Beverage World. She was surprised that I had heard of the magazine, and completely bowled over by the fact that I thought it was interesting. I guess, as a technical writer, I have a weird sense of interesting.