Local business journals stepping up

City-specific business journals are becoming more sophisticated and aggressive in their attempts to win readers and advertisers from the major-market dailies.

City-specific business journals are becoming more sophisticated and aggressive in their attempts to win readers and advertisers from the major-market dailies.

As major newspapers experience declines in circulation and resources, business journals have stepped to the fore and are competing with the dailies for readers, advertisers, and stories.

In markets across the US, city-specific business journals have become far more polished, far more aggressive, and, as a result, far better targets for PR pros and their b-to-b clients.

Sandy Lish, founder of Boston-based The Castle Group, notes that such journals have also become more strategic in marketing themselves.

"Clearly, a paper like the Boston Business Journal has more space to devote to local news and more reporters focused on business stories," she says. "But one of the real critical changes I've seen in the past few years is that its publisher has really increased the paper's visibility in terms of sponsorships of and participation in local organizations. He has created more of its own events that bring the business community to the paper. This seems to have made a difference in how the paper is viewed and how valuable the coverage is to our clients."

Competing with dailies

James Wall, CEO of Denver-based Freeman Wall Aiello Public Relations, notes that editors at local papers also seem to be paying closer attention to business titles, especially with many of the journals now leveraging the internet to break daily stories.

"We used to always target the Denver Business Journal first because it gets great response in the local business community, has a longer shelf life, and gets circulated around offices throughout the city," he says. "But you used to be able to then get a story in the business pages of The Denver Post or Rocky Mountain News, but now those editors ... read the business journal and won't do another story because they view [it as a competitor] from a business-news standpoint."

James Peters, VP of media relations strategy in Ketchum's Atlanta office, suggests that business journals might be able to offer more thorough treatment of local stories. "They all want a local hook," he says. "But the business journals are able to focus more on feature articles, profiles, and in-depth interviews, which are all great opportunities for companies to get their message out."

He adds that there will still be some clients who prefer placement in a major-market daily because it guarantees a larger audience. But, he says, "What I try to counsel clients is that many of the C-suite executives read the business journals on a weekly basis, as do the regulators, politicians, and community leaders."

Bill Getch, president of Alpharetta, GA-based Professional Services PR, has seen differences in coverage between dailies and journals. "I frequently ask clients to prioritize media outlets, and in the past six to eight months they have bumped city journals like the Atlanta Business Chronicle to the top of their list," he says. "Dailies are still feeling a hangover for pumping up dot-bombs and not scrutinizing them enough. As a result, I think they have made a commitment to stay on the big corporations and have punted on emerging companies, particularly if they are private companies."

But like the newspaper industry, business journals will be impacted by the emergence of chains like American City Business Journals that end up using the same syndicated content in many different markets.

"In the early '90s, you had more opportunities to get your clients' Op-Ed bylined articles in business journals on things like new tax laws or new government regulations," notes Marc Jampole, principal of Pittsburgh-based Jampole Communications. "You can still get those in, but it's a lot harder, and you get fewer of them, especially because the chains have these columnists they fill all their papers with."

But Peters points out that the syndication trend can also help PR pros looking to build a regional or national campaign.

"Before you may have had to go to each one, but now if you get to be one of the top stories in one of their titles, you have a better chance to get pushed out to the chain's other outlets," he says.

Increased staff retention

As they've risen in stature, Jampole says, business journals are no longer considered stepping-stone jobs for reporters looking to quickly move to the financial newswires or business titles. "We've found the reporters for the business journals now tend to stick with those outlets longer than they used to," he says.

Bud Brewer, president/CEO of Orlando-based MPB Communications, says these reporters are therefore more likely to become real specialists in categories, such as commercial real estate.

"They tend to know their beats, and they really get interested in stories they can sink their teeth into," he says. "They also want stories that have very good art associated with them, so they get excited when you're able to give them good renderings for a real- estate piece."

Pitching... business journals

City-specific business journals are very competitive with the business pages of any nearby paper, so if you want to get a client in both, you'll need to come up with different news hooks

  • Due to the growing number of business journals that are part of major chains, the right pitch to the right columnist can get your story distributed across the country
  • Don't judge a business journal by its numbers. Most will never rival the nearby daily in terms of circulation, but their audience is very influential, especially for b-to-b clients

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