With many newspapers cutting newsholes and resources - including within the financial sections - local business journals would seem to be poised to steal mind and market share from the dailies.
Yet, for the most part, the tightening of newspapers' budgets is having very little effect on these city-specific outlets, says Kent Bernhard, VP of editorial for American City Business Journals, which operates weekly business outlets in 41 markets.
"We are looking to exploit every opportunity, but the fact is there hasn't been any fundamental shift," he says. "The only major change has been that we're now using the Web in every way we know how to broaden and deepen the local business news franchise."
One major distinction between business journals and newspaper financial sections is that the former exclusively focuses on local stories, says Joe Guerin, editor of the San Diego Daily Transcript, one of the few daily business journals.
"We're looking for local, original, and exclusive," he says. "But it also has to be real news, not just a release noting that a company values [its] customers."
One main reason why business journals are often a better fit for local clients is that many contain specialty beats, such as real estate, healthcare, and construction, says Colin Hutt, president of Milwaukee-based Primum Marketing Communications.
"They're becoming very savvy in breaking news [and] using interactive tools, such as blogs and e-mail alerts," he adds. "And they're fanning out into more industries so that they [are] able to scoop the local daily in many instances."
Yet, a circulation base that reaches a wider swath of the general public means that communications pros generally pitch newspaper editors more often than their counterparts at business journals, Hutt adds.
"Most of our clients would still prefer to be in the business section of their local newspapers, even though the business journals often provide a lot more depth and breadth in their stories," he says.
Peter Webb, president of Denver-based Webb PR, adds that business journals tend to have smaller circulations. But in some markets, including Denver, they have been able to attract top-notch talent from the local daily.
"They tend to know their audience in more of a rifle-shot-targeted fashion than the broad-based daily business section, which works well for our clients in local business-to-business space," he adds.
Webb adds that media companies like American City often hold meetings among their publications.
"All the American City editors have regular conference calls," he says. "So if you can get a trend story in one, the editors from these other markets may see it as an idea for their publication as well."
Pitching... local business
Work with your clients to emphasize that although local daily newspapers might have a higher circulation, business journals can deliver to a more targeted audience
Many business journals are print weeklies, but they are quickly adding daily e-mail blasts and other online channels, so they're more appropriate for breaking news than they used to be
Business journals are looking for local news above all else, so make sure you understand exactly the area they focus on and how your client fits in with that business community