Friday, August 01, 2008


Service journalism or advertorial work takes a certain type of writer. If you can keep your opinion out of your writing and are willing to showcase the advertisers in a trade magazine, it may be for you.

Trade magazines are not available on newsstands--they serve the members of organizations who pay annual subscriptions. These mags also carry members' advertisements, which are solicited to support the editorial calendar. The ads pay the magazine's editor's salary and the contributing writers' fees.

A few examples of trade mags include Canadian Grocer (the biggest and oldest), BC Restaurant News, The Trowel (construction trades), Cattlemen, and Truck Logger Magazine. Go here for an extensive North American list, or here for a Canadian list.

The freelancer's articles, therefore, have to give the advertisers their moment in the sun. Trade mag editors tell the writer the ratio of words expected to advertisers' space for a particular piece. For example, if company ABC buys a half page ad, the writer must devote 500 words to this company; if company XYZ has two column inches, they get proportionally less exposure in the article. Also, writers need to know that the advertisers get to read the article before publication--something that almost never happens when writing for consumer magazines. Any changes the advertisers request go to the mag's editor and not to the writer.

Breaking into this market is much like any other: read lots of previous issues and check the magazines' submission guidelines, if they have them. Then send a query letter with a good idea or two for future articles with the right word count.

The big trade magazines pay between 40 and 50 cents per word; smaller ones, less.